The offseason won’t start in earnest until after the World Series ends, but given that the Cubs’ season has concluded, it’s time to look ahead.
There are plenty of vacancies on the Cubs roster, and that means that the team could be active in both free agency and the trade market. But those decisions aren’t made in a vacuum. Instead, the Cubs’ budget is a carefully crafted beast, and raises to current players will play a significant role.
And a significant part of that significant role is the arbitration system, which will fork over significant (word of the day) raises to eligible players. MLB Trade Rumors has given us a head start with some projected arbitration salaries for 2018.
Check out the list of eligible Cubs, their service time, and what they’re projected to earn if they’re tendered a contract:
- Justin Wilson (5.035) – $4.3MM
- Hector Rondon (5.000) – $6.2MM
- Justin Grimm (4.162) – $2.4MM
- Leonys Martin (4.161) – $4.9MM
- Kyle Hendricks (3.081) – $4.9MM
- Tommy La Stella (3.072) – $1.0MM
- Kris Bryant (2.171) – $8.9MM
- Addison Russell (2.167) – $2.3MM
At the top, you have a pair of relievers heading into their final season under control. Given what each of Justin Wilson and Hector Rondon can be, those salaries aren’t too debilitating. And, frankly, if each pitches up to their potential, those will be relative steals for the Cubs.
Still, with Rondon losing – at various times – command, health, and trust over the past two seasons, it’s entirely possible he will be non-tendered. Arbitration-level contracts are not fully guaranteed (players can be cut in Spring Training for only a portion of their salary), so it’s also possible the Cubs will be willing to tender Rondon, hold him for the offseason (the only cost is the 40-man roster spot), and then see what he looks like in the spring.
Another reliever, Justin Grimm, follows, but his case is slightly more interesting. Although he’s scheduled to make just $2.4 million next season, he had a really rough year off the mound in 2017, including a -0.4 fWAR. This projection would only be a modest $500-$600K raise, though, so maybe it’s about right. Remember: short of missing an entire season (that’s hyperbole, but it’s close), guys always get at least a little raise in arbitration.
Continuing … the Cubs traded for Leonys Martin this season, but he appeared in just 14 regular season games and saw just three PAs in October. Given the crowded outfield picture (Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, Ian Happ, Albert Almora, Kyle Schwarber), I’d be surprised if the Cubs began 2018 with Martin on the roster, but if they do, he won’t be too cheap, according to the projections. He’ll almost certainly be non-tendered.
$4.9 million for Kyle Hendricks in 2018 is as much of a “steal” as value gets, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a little more, given his importance to the team and the Cubs’ typical generosity in these matters. That’s a nice take for a first-time-eligible starting pitcher.
Tommy La Stella for $1 million is another no-brainer and great value for the Cubs’ bench.
Addison Russell and Kris Bryant are both shy of three years service time, thanks to their untimely call-ups a couple of weeks into 2015, but will be eligible for arbitration next year as they qualify for Super Two status (which basically just means they’ll go through arbitration four times, starting this coming season, as opposed to the standard three trips). Due to Russell’s middling traditional statistics and time missed, his projected 2018 salary isn’t very high.
Kris Bryant, on the other hand, is absolutely breaking the bank, and justifiably so. Given his salary this year and a third straight fantastic season on the field, he’s projected to make a ridiculous $8.9 million in 2018 – an enormous number for a first-time-eligible, Super-Two player. With three more trips through arbitration after this, he could conceivably push toward $30 million by his fourth year of arbitration – that is, of course, if the Cubs can’t find a way to extend him before that.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.