All players eligible for arbitration this offseason must be tendered 2018 contracts by 7 p.m. CT this Friday, December 1.
In some cases, teams might decide to move on from certain players for various reasons and not give them a 2018 contract, thus the reference to this Friday as the “non-tender” deadline.
Seven Cubs are arb-eligible this offseason: Kris Bryant, Kyle Hendricks, Addison Russell, Tommy La Stella, Justin Wilson, Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon.
It’s obvious the first three, all key players on this team, will be tendered contracts. So will TLS, who became an excellent bench player in 2017.
Justin Wilson’s poor performance after his acquisition by the Cubs might rate a non-tender, but the Cubs invested quite a bit of player capital in acquiring him and I’m reasonably certain management thinks new pitching coach Jim Hickey and new special assistant Jim Benedict can straighten him out. Thus it’s almost certain the Wilson will be tendered a contract.
That leaves Rondon and Grimm, both of whom have been with the Cubs since 2013. Both are in their final year of arbitration before free agency.
Both Rondon and Grimm have had success with the Cubs. Hector was, for a time, a lights-out closer, particularly in 2015, when he posted a 1.67 ERA, 1.000 WHIP and 30 saves in 34 chances, a 2.2 bWAR season. He struggled early in 2016, which is why the club went out and acquired Aroldis Chapman for the World Series run.
Hector had, to be blunt, a bad 2017, and his bad first half led to a worse second half. After the All-Star break Rondon posted a 4.98 ERA and 1.338 WHIP in 24 appearances, with five home runs allowed in just 21⅔ innings. He’ll turn 30 in February and frankly, the Cubs probably have better options. I suppose they could keep him and try him at closer again, but it’s been two years since he’s been solid at that position. He made $5.8 million last year and since arb salaries are mostly based on seniority rather than performance, he’d likely be in line for a raise to $7.5 million or more. That’s way too much, in my view.
Grimm, too, had some good times with the Cubs, including a 2015 season where he posted a 1.99 ERA and 1.148 WHIP in 62 appearances. Even then, though, he had a 4.7 walk rate per nine innings, and while that’s improved slightly (4.4 in 2017), he’s getting hit harder. He allowed a frighteningly large number of home runs in 2017 — 12 in just 55⅓ innings. Rondon, too, allowed a lot of homers last season, 10 in 57⅓ innings.
Grimm made $1.825 million in 2017, so his arb figure is probably in the $3 million range. That’s not too much if you think he can get back to his 2015 level of performance, but I have my doubts. Grimm turns 30 next year, too, though not till August.
The Cubs could save close to $10 million by non-tendering these two pitchers and giving a shot to some of the younger guys, particularly Dillon Maples, who’s got a good arm and seems ready to take over a middle relief spot.
Me? I’d non-tender both Rondon and Grimm. In addition to potential money savings, it opens up two 40-man roster spots. If they don’t get picked up by anyone else they could be re-signed to minor-league deals.
What do you think?