Another “as expected” options decision is in the books for the Cubs, according to Jesse Rogers, and it’s reliever David Phelps hitting the open market after his $5 million option was declined.
Now recovered from Tommy John surgery, Phelps could be a useful reliever in 2020 for the Cubs (or another team), but he’s highly unlikely to see a contract in the $5 million range coming off his injury-shortened, modest-results year.
Phelps, 33, posted a very nice 3.41 ERA over his 34.1 innings split between the Cubs and Blue Jays, but his walk rate was an unsightly 11.5%, and his 24.5% K rate was not high enough to offset it. He did a decent job managing hard contact, but his groundball rate was down from where he was pre-surgery. Velocity, too, was down below his pre-surgery level, though he was getting kinda close by the end of the year (sat 95 mph before surgery as a reliever, reached about 93.5 mph on average in the final months of the season).
On the whole, he’s a guy you’d be fine bringing back in your bullpen on a cheap one-year deal, but $5 million is too much, even if money wasn’t tight.
As for the Cubs, that settles all their options decisions: Rizzo and Quintana picked up, Phelps, Morrow, Holland, Graveman, Barnette declined.
The 40-man roster sits at 31, leaving the Cubs plenty of room for offseason maneuvering (including possibly adding a minor league guy or two today – Colin Rea? Allen Webster? Jhonny Pereda? – so they don’t become minor league free agents).