When it came time to settle pre-arbitration contracts for Cubs players this week, every such player on the 40-man roster agreed to his contract for 2018 except one player: Ian Happ.
That left the front office to do something it hadn’t ever done in its seven years atop the Cubs organization: renew a player.
As you may recall, clubs have the right to pay anything at or above the Major League minimum salary to their players with zero to three years service time who haven’t yet qualified for arbitration (renewal). That means a club could, in theory, renew every single such player under team control at the minimum salary ($545,000), but teams generally don’t do that, and prefer to come to agreements. Even when renewing a player, the player tends to get a little bump, as Happ did, to $570,000.
But how is Happ feeling about his salary for this season, given that the sides couldn’t agree? Well, if he’s chapped about it, he’s hiding it well.
“It’s perfectly fine,” Happ told the Sun-Times, sounding like he agreed with Jed Hoyer’s assessment of the situation. “There were no issues, no hard feelings. The guys upstairs do a great job of treating players the right way.”
That last part certainly sticks out, because in these renewal situations, it tends to be that you don’t hear either side saying anything, and when you do, it’s the player saying some things about the “business” and his “value” and “respect” (and those comments are usually fair). Clearly, even in a renewal situation, the front office works to treat people the right way. (And on that, you’ll note that some teams, when they renew, wind up renewing players at the minimum salary. The Cubs did not.)
My guess is that the sides weren’t all that far off on a salary for 2018, and maybe Happ simply wanted to make a principled stand to help move young player salaries – which, again, are entirely within the control of the team – north a bit. As with Kris Bryant’s comments on the service time issues he faced earlier in his career, and the way he has carried that experience with him, I don’t have any issue with players doing what they can to (1) get theirs, and (2) get more for others. Professional sports careers can prove cruelly short.