Today isn’t a “WOO HOO TODAY IS THE DAY” kind of date. It’s more of a “Soooo … what’s gonna happen?” kind of date.
Tonight at 7pm CT is the deadline by which teams must tender contracts for 2021 to their arbitration eligible players, lest they immediately become free agents. It’s the expectation around the league that there will be a larger number of non-tenders than usual thanks to the financial losses of 2020 and uncertain 2021, and free agency has been at a virtual standstill pending a clearer picture on just who will be free agents. (Plus the unknown start and length of the season, plus the unknown rules plans, plus the lack of set budgets as teams furiously study vaccine plans …. )
Here are the Cubs arbitration-eligible players, their level of arbitration, and their range of salary projections (via MLBTR) if they are tendered a contract:
Albert Almora Jr. (Arb 2 of 3, was $1.58 million in 2020) – $1.58M to $1.58M
Javy Báez (Arb 3 of 3, was $10 million in 2020) – $10.0M to $11.9M
Kris Bryant (Arb 4 of 4, was $18.6 million in 2020) – $18.6M to $18.6M
Victor Caratini (Arb 1 of 3, was $592K in 2020) – $1.2M to $1.6M
Willson Contreras (Arb 2 of 3, was $4.5 million in 2020) – $5.0M to $7.4M
Ian Happ (Arb 1 of 3, was $624K in 2020) – $2.5M to $4.6M
Colin Rea (Arb 1 of 3, was $565K in 2020) – $1.0M to $1.6M
Kyle Ryan (Arb 2 of 4, was $975K in 2020) – $1.2M to $1.5M
Kyle Schwarber (Arb 3 of 3, was $7 million in 2020) – $7.9M to $9.3M
Ryan Tepera (Arb 3 of 3, was $900K in 2020) – $1.1M to$1.5M
Dan Winkler (Arb 3 of 3, was $750K in 2020) – $900K to $1.2M
Jose Martinez (Arb 2 of 3, was $2.43 million in 2020) – $2.1M to $2.3M
One thing I’ll point out, as Michael discussed last night, is that we’re seeing a flurry of pre-tender deals (i.e., guys actually signing contracts for 2021, rather than just being tendered a contract for which the salary will be determined later in arbitration). MLBTR is collecting them here, and you can easily see the trend: it’s all guys who were low-salary, right on the border of a non-tender, accepting something slightly less than they might have been able to push for in arb. Basically, these guys are trading the slight upside of a better payday in arb in exchange for the certainty of a guaranteed contract, rather than taking the risk that they’d get out into free agency … and sit … and wait … and then have to settle for a minor league deal in March.
With the Cubs, it’s conceivable we could see pre-tender deals today for any of the relief arms who are plausible non-tender possibilities (Dan Winkler, Ryan Tepera, Kyle Ryan, Colin Rea), as well as Albert Almora, Jr. and Jose Martinez, who I expect will be non-tendered today. If the Cubs could get any of these guys to agree to a lesser contract right now (again, I’m mostly thinking the relievers), then they get to stick around on the 40-man and a big league deal for 2021 with some guaranteed money. In a very unpredictable offseason where the market is about to get flooded with intriguing relief arms, it might be a win-win situation.
Otherwise, we’ll see a whole lot of important decisions made around baseball today, including some trades, potentially.
Stay tuned. Theo Epstein isn’t the top dog anymore, but his lieutenant, Jed Hoyer, is. To me, I’m thinking that means the Cubs will operate how they usually do on these deadline days: taking things to the very last moment, if necessary.