Many people here thought the Cubs would exercise the $10 million option for Jason Hammel and have him as part of the 2017 rotation.
In a press release from the team, Theo Epstein said:
“First, I want to thank Jason for all of his contributions in his almost three seasons as a Cub. He was an effective, reliable starter the entire time he was a Cub, and this year he was an integral part of one of the best rotations in club history. We would not have been in a position to win the World Series without Jason’s terrific performance during the regular season. Jason and his family have been outstanding members of our organization and our community, and we are proud of their time with and impact on the Cubs.
“While Jason is healthy and primed to have another effective season in 2017, we have decided to consider other internal and external options for our starting rotation next year. Our hope is that by giving a starting opportunity to some younger pitchers under multiple years of club control, we can unearth a starter who will help us not only in 2017 but also in 2018 and beyond.
“When we agreed with Jason on this two-year contract back at the 2014 winter meetings, the option was included with the intent that it would be exercised if Jason was going to be a Cub in 2017. The intent was never to exercise the option and then trade Jason, so we will not consider that path. Instead, Jason will have the opportunity to enter free agency coming off an outstanding season and the ability to choose his next club. Meanwhile, the organization gains some flexibility and the opportunity to use a rotation spot to develop a younger, long-term starting pitcher.
“We wish the Hammels nothing but the absolute best going forward. We would certainly be open to Jason rejoining the organization in the future, but even if that never happens we will always consider him a Cub and be thankful for his role in delivering a World Series championship to the people of Chicago.”
As a result, the Cubs will pay Hammel a $2 million buyout. Theo left the door open to returning in that statement, but just a tiny bit. He’s likely headed elsewhere.
He had a pretty good year in 2016: 15-10, 3.83 ERA, 1.206 WHIP, but just 1.1 bWAR. The Cubs probably figured they could get that kind of production for less money. It almost certainly means that Mike Montgomery, who posted the World Series-winning save, will get a chance to move into the Cubs’ rotation. Montgomery was a rotation starter for the Mariners in 2015 (16 starts, 4.60 ERA, 1.433 WHIP) but pitched mostly in relief in 2016 (42 relief appearances, seven starts combined between Seattle and Chicago).
Montgomery was a No. 1 pick of the Royals in 2008. He’s 27. The Cubs must feel that a full spring under Chris Bosio will bring that talent to the forefront.
I’ll have more on other Cubs free agents tomorrow.