With the 2016 season officially in the books, the Cubs (and the rest of baseball) has officially turned its attention to the offseason, free agency, and the 2017 season.
While there are a great many items to address (the future of the CBA, trades, free agent signings, departure of coaches or front office executives, etc.), one such annually important issue is the various arbitration eligible players the salaries they’re expected to command.
Every year, MLB Trade Rumors provides projected arbitration salaries – using a surprisingly accurate model developed by Matt Swartz which you can read about here – so let’s take a look at their estimates for the Chicago Cubs and get a sense of where things are likely to land.
The Cubs have a grand total of five arbitration eligible players in 2017, four of which are pitchers, the fifth of which is fan-favorite Munenori Kawasaki.* Below, I’ve listed each of their projected arbitration raises for the 2017 season (according to MLBTR), with their service time in parentheses:
Chicago Cubs Arbitration Projections:
- Pedro Strop (5.156) – $5.5MM
- Jake Arrieta (5.145) – $16.8MM
- Hector Rondon (4.000) – $5.7MM
- Justin Grimm (3.170) – $1.8MM
- Munenori Kawasaki* (3.002) – $800K
Pedro Strop and Jake Arrieta are entering their final season of arbitration (and final season under contract with the Cubs), and each is expected to get a seriously healthy raise their final time through. Arrieta, for example, made $10.7 million in 2016, so $16.8 million is quite the bump. Although, he fared well in many of the traditional statistics a year after winning the Cy Young, and historically, arbitrators have tended to weigh those heavily. Thus, the Cubs will have to pay up. I suspect, they will be more than happy to pay Arrieta.
Rondon and Grimm are both entering their second year of arbitration eligibility, but it is Rondon – the closer – who is expected to earn the bigger raise (saves are one of those traditional stats). Both remain perfectly affordable, though Rondon’s cost could eventually reach a level where you might have some questions *if* his performance next year didn’t quickly rebound from his late-season slump.
And finally, Munenori Kawasaki enters his first round of arbitration eligibility, but figures to cost less than a million dollars to keep around, if the Cubs tender him a contract.*
One final thing to note, Theo Epstein has not yet gone to arbitration with any of his players, and has always found a way to strike a deal before the process begins. He came close with Jake Arrieta last year, but ultimately settled before needing an arbitrator. I suspect he will keep look to keep that streak up this season, as well.
The arbitration process officially gets underway in January.
*[Brett: Much of the stuff on Kawasaki figures to be academic, because I don’t think the Cubs will keep him on the 40-man roster all offseason anyway. However, it’s a bit confusing: as we’ve discussed before, the MLB Players Association page lists Kawasaki has having become a free agent, per his contract terms, even though he wouldn’t otherwise have enough service time to qualify for free agency. Kawasaki, however, is still on the Cubs’ official roster, and is not listed among the Cubs having elected free agency. Adding to the intrigue, the last move involving Kawasaki was reassigning him to the minor leagues at the start of the postseason (because he did not make the postseason roster). That’s a standard move, but I don’t know how the interplay of that maneuver impacts whatever Kawasaki’s contractual rights are – often, players from other professional leagues have unique contract terms. So, as I said, none of this is likely to matter, as Kawasaki might be removed from the 40-man roster this week in advance of Friday’s roster deadline. But, it’s a unique situation.]