Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

travis wood cubs featureAs you already know from studying the offseason roadmap closely, today is a huge deadline. By 11pm CT tonight, teams must decide which under-control, unsigned players to whom they wish to offer a contract (“tender”) for 2016. For players without enough service time for arbitration, the decision is an easy one: is the player worth keeping on the 40-man roster? Yes? OK, here’s a tender.

For players that are eligible for salary arbitration – the process by which salaries start to escalate in years four, five, and six of a player’s career (and year three, if the player is eligible as a Super Two) – the decision can be more difficult for teams. They can tender a contract and risk being on the hook for a huge salary increase in arbitration, or they can non-tender a player, making him a free agent, and risk having him sign with another team. Because there are a number of players on the tender bubble, so to speak, there is often activity around baseball on this day, with Team A saying to Team B, “Hey, can we trade for that guy you’re about to non-tender so we can get him before he becomes a free agent? Because, like, we’re happy to pay him his projected salary, even if you’re not.” That’s going on right now, for example, between the Mariners and Orioles with respect to Mark Trumbo.

The Cubs, with a 40-man roster at 38, could conceivably drop a pre-arbitration player or two today (there are logistical reasons why dropping a pre-arbitration player from the 40-man today – and today, only – can be a good decision (if you want more detail than that, read up from Arizona Phil)).

The more pressing question for today, though, is whether all nine arbitration-eligible Cubs will be tendered a contract:

  • Jake Arrieta
  • Rex Brothers
  • Chris Coghlan
  • Ryan Cook
  • Justin Grimm
  • Clayton Richard
  • Hector Rondon
  • Pedro Strop
  • Travis Wood

I think most are a lock to be tendered a contract, and if you were asking me to bet, I would bet that all are tendered. But, as we’ve discussed before, Richard and Wood could be close calls, especially now that the Cubs have added so many arms to the bullpen. Because of their ability to pitch in a variety of roles, and because each was so effective last year, I’d have a hard time letting either go, especially when you consider the Cubs’ lack of back-end starting pitching depth right now. Richard projects to make around $1.5 to $2 million, and Wood is probably more like $6.5 to $7 million. Admittedly, with a limited budget, there’s a lot the Cubs could do with that near $10 million. But these birds in hand might be worth hanging onto, even if only because I suspect they’d have more value on the open market than their projected arbitration rates.

We’ll see what happens today.

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