In a typical year, you never hear about the restricted list outside of PED suspensions. For non-drug-related reasons, it’s a rarely used method to allow players – in certain circumstances – to be away from baseball and off the 40-man roster.
But we’ve all become fairly well acquainted with that roster quirk this year because of Ben Zobrist’s family situation, as he is away from the team to deal with a divorce. Now, there is a second Cubs player on the restricted list, as veteran reliever Tony Barnette did not report to Iowa after he was optioned there upon the activation of Craig Kimbrel.
“I think Tony is kind of reevaluating things with his family right now,” Cubs GM Hoyer told Cubs.com. “He’s done this for a long time at a high level, and I think he’s trying to figure out the next step and we’re certainly willing to give him the time to do that. He’s a pro and a really good dude, and I think he’s at that point in his career where he wants to think things over and think about what the next steps are. That’s kind of where it is right now.”
In other words, the 35-year-old righty who spent a long time working his way up through the minor leagues, then spent some successful years in Japan, and then finally returned to the big leagues as a very good reliever with the Rangers, may not want to spend this time in the minor leagues in limbo awaiting another chance with a Cubs team that already has 10(!) relievers up right now, and Carl Edwards Jr. on a rehab assignment.
Barnette worked through a shoulder injury this spring and over a very long minor league rehab assignment after signing a $750,000 contract with the Cubs late in the offseason. He dominated at AAA Iowa in that process, and it wouldn’t be surprising to find out that he was ready to be up with the big club much sooner than he was activated, and then was upset to get immediately bounced back down to Iowa. To be sure, we don’t know exactly what’s going on – I’m saying only that I could see that playing out for a veteran in his position.
As for the Cubs, although they hold a $3 million option on Barnette for next year, they may ultimately be inclined to let Barnette move on, given their roster crunch and the money he would otherwise be owed – the budget is tight, after all. As Hoyer said, we’ll see what the next steps are when they arrive. To their credit, the Cubs have been flexible in these situations before – with Zobrist, with Tommy La Stella a few years ago.
For now, what this means is the Cubs have another 40-man roster spot open. It stands at just 38, and if the Cubs want to add a non-roster guy like Robel Garcia, there is currently no impediment.