The number of Cubs eligible for an arbitration hearing has just been reduced by one:
Justin Wilson agrees to $4.25m deal, avoids arbitration with Cubs.— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) January 12, 2018
This figure is slightly below the $4.5 million I estimated in my payroll look at the Cubs last month. The $250,000 savings is negligible in what’s likely going to be a payroll of about $185 million, but savings it is.
Wilson was having a fine year for the Tigers in 2017 when he was acquired by the Cubs on deadline day, July 31, along with Alex Avila. The Cubs sent Jeimer Candelario and minor leaguer Isaac Paredes to Detroit.
Wilson almost immediately became unable to throw strikes. Though his velocity was fine, he walked 19 hitters in 17⅔ innings as a Cub, a horrifying walk ratio of 9.7 per nine innings. That’s obviously unacceptable for a major-league reliever, and it’s inexplicable, because Wilson had walked only 16 batters in 40⅓ innings for the Tigers (3.6 per nine).
Obviously, the Cubs hope that new pitching coach Jim Hickey can help fix whatever was wrong with Wilson in his two months as a Cub. It was bad enough that Wilson was left off the NLCS roster.
Here’s to better times for Justin Wilson in 2018. He’ll be a free agent after the season, so there’s at least one incentive for him to improve.
If there are further “avoid arbitration” signings by the Cubs Friday (which is the deadline for teams to exchange salary figures if they can’t agree), I’ll post them here.