It’s a deadline day! The words that make everyone except The Wife thrilled.
Today is the deadline for teams to tender contracts for 2018 to the players under team control but not currently signed to a contract already. In other words, you want to keep that arbitration-eligible player (or that pre-arb guy)? You’ve gotta commit a contract to them today.
How much that contract will pay, of course, will be determined later, via negotiations and/or arbitration for the arbitration-eligible players, and via the team’s decision on how much to pay for the pre-arb players.
Hence, the big topic for the day is always the arbitration-eligible players, which of them might be non-tendered and made free agents, and which of them might be traded before the 7pm CT deadline arrives. We’ve talked about which players might soon join the free agent pool and become attractive targets for the Cubs, and we’ve talked about one starter who could be traded today and could interest the Cubs.
But what about the Cubs’ in-house decisions on their arbitration-eligible players?
Well, as we’ve said before, of the seven arbitration-eligible players for the Cubs, five are no-brainer tenders: Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks, Tommy La Stella, Addison Russell, and Justin Wilson will all be tendered. The calls on Hector Rondon (projected $6.2 million) and Justin Grimm ($2.4 million) are tougher given their respective struggles in the last couple years. The Cubs have needs in the bullpen, but the free agent class is extremely robust, and the club might find a better use of those resources elsewhere.
Keep in mind: these arbitration-level contracts are not entirely guaranteed. If a player shows up for Spring Training and it’s clear that he doesn’t have it, you can cut the player for 30 or 45 days termination pay (depending on when the cut takes place) and move on. If they make it to the start of the season, though, then the full salary locks in.
So might the Cubs tender the two relievers just to keep them around in case free agency does not proceed as hoped? The only real risk is the 40-man roster spot they’ll occupy, plus the possibility of termination pay (or that they are kept around for the Spring and then tank in the regular season). I don’t want to make it sound like it’s obvious they should be tendered, but I just want to make sure you’re all apprised of the possible “outs.”
From where I sit, given the injuries and ineffectiveness, I’d be very tempted to non-tender Rondon at this point. With the free agent class what it is, it seems like that $6 million could go a long way to finding a more reliable replacement. Or, the robust free agent class could be incentive for Rondon to re-sign with the Cubs for less than his projected arbitration amount (a re-signing that could, in fact, occur today before the tender decision is due – sometimes teams do that).
With Grimm, it’d be harder for me to non-tender, since the commitment is so much smaller, and since his stuff is as nasty as anyone on the staff when he’s right. Sure, maybe he lost it last year and it’s never coming back, but $2.4 million (or 1/6 of that as termination pay) seems a very reasonable amount to risk for the upside.
A much, much less likely option today is that the Cubs could trade one of these guys to a team that *would* want to tender them. I doubt there’s a team out there that wants to make sure to get one of these two before they reach free agency so badly that they’ll give up value today to acquire them (and the Cubs, themselves, don’t otherwise want to keep them). I don’t expect a trade. But it’s possible.
Around the league, teams are dealing with these same kinds of decisions, so today should be a fun one.