Today was the deadline to offer arbitration-eligible players a contract for 2015 and the Cubs declined to offer a contract to two players, catcher John Baker and left-handed reliever Wesley Wright. Eight other players, Travis Wood, Jake Arrieta, Chris Coghlan, Luis Valbuena, Pedro Strop, Justin Ruggiano, Felix Doubront and Welington Castillo were offered deals and will presumably head to arbitration, although the Cubs will likely agree to a deal with those players well before the teams go before an arbitrator.
Baker and Wright are now free agents.
To keep the rights to an arbitration-eligible player, a team must offer a contract of at least 80% of what the player made the season before. Wright made $1.4 million last season and was looking at a raise to around $2 million if his case went to arbitration. The Cubs decided that was too much for Wright and declined to offer a deal.
Last season, the left-handed Wright threw 48.1 innings of relief and had an ERA of 3.17. He struck out 37 batters and walked 19.
John Baker made $875,000 last year and would likewise have gotten a raise to over a million dollars had his case gone to arbitration. For all Baker was praised for his receiving skills (and his relief pitching!), he didn't hit much at all last year and he turns 34 in January. The Cubs have reportedly been looking for new catching all winter.
Baker hit .198/.273/.231 in 208 plate appearances. Also, he was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in one relief appearance.
Both Wright and Baker are eligible to re-sign with the Cubs for a lower amount. However, at this point we don't know if either they or the Cubs are interested in a reunion.
While the other seven players were considered easy decisions, there had been a lot of talk that the Cubs might decide to non-tender Travis Wood after a rough season. Wood made $3.9 million last season and is in line for a raise over $5 million next year. That seems like a lot for a pitcher who pitched as poorly as Wood did last year. But it would be a bargain for a pitcher who pitched as well as Wood did the year before, so the Cubs decided to take a gamble that Wood would return to his 2013 form.
The Cubs 40-man roster now stands at 37.
There have been some other well-known names that were non-tendered tonight. The Braves made the biggest waves by declining to offer contracts to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy. Both pitchers missed all of 2014 with Tommy John surgery and their salaries were considered too much for pitchers with an uncertain future.
The Padres non-tendered shortstop Everth Cabrera, who was an all-star in 2013. But he was terrible in 2014, had a PED suspension and off-the-field issues.
The Red Sox did not offer a contract to Juan Francisco, who they had just picked up on waivers last month.