Last week, MLB Trade Rumors posted their list of projected arbitration salaries for 2020. In the past, this has been a reasonable guide to where these numbers will wind up, so let’s take a look at their numbers for the seven eligible Cubs. (I’ll have a deeper dive into the 2020 payroll after the World Series, when free agents are off the roster and options will or won’t have been exercised.)
Of interest in general regarding salaries, even if not specifically related to arbitration:
As free agency approaches, sources say a player who accepts a qualifying offer this winter will get a one-year, $17.8-million contract next season.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) October 11, 2019
That’s down from $17.9M. It’s the first time the value of the qualifying offer has ever dropped from one year to the next.
Now, here are the seven Cubs and their MLBTR projected salaries for next season.
Kris Bryant: $18.5 million
KB made $12.9 million in his second arb season in 2019. Hampered by injuries, he hit .282/.382/.521 (153-for-543) with 31 home runs, 108 runs scored and 3.6 bWAR.
That’s a very good, but not great, year. I suspect the MLBTR figure is a little bit high, but not much. We don’t yet have the qualifying offer figure for 2020 but it figures to be somewhere near there. So for now, let’s say this is likely what Bryant gets, unless he and the team negotiate something else.
Javier Baez: $9.3 million
Another season ruined by injury, as Javy hurt his heel in May and it might never have been 100 percent after that. Then he suffered a hairline fracture of his thumb September 1 and missed almost the entire rest of the season.
He hit .281/.316/.531 (149-for-531) with 29 home runs, good numbers that were a little bit short of his second-place MVP finish in 2018.
He made $5.2 million in 2019. $9.3 million again sounds a bit high, but not too much, and he might get that. Or he and the Cubs might negotiate something else, or a long-term deal.
Kyle Schwarber: $8 million
Kyle set career bests in runs, doubles, home runs, RBI, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS and bWAR, the latter figure at 2.3.
Which is good, but is it $8 million good? Look at what he hit in his last 32 games: .348/.422/.723 (39-for-112) with 11 doubles, two triples and nine home runs. That’s an MVP season if he could do that for an entire year.
Which, I suppose, is possible. Kyle made $3.39 million in 2019. Again, $8 million might be a bit high, but not much.
Addison Russell: $5.1 million
He hit .237/.308/.391 (51-for-215) with nine home runs and spent significant chunks of the season in Triple-A.
He made $3.4 million in 2019. Maybe. I’m not 100 percent sure about this figure. MLBTR says $4.3 million with bonuses for spending 30, 60, 90, etc. days on the roster. (I believe he had between 90 and the next escalator, 120 days.) Pretty much every other resource says $3.4 million.
The Cubs can get this kind of production from Nico Hoerner for a lot less money. I’m guessing they will try to trade Russell, and if they can’t, he’ll be non-tendered.
Willson Contreras: $4.5 million
Willson made $684,000 in 2019 and 2020 is his first arb-eligible season.
He set career highs in runs, home runs, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, total bases and OPS+ and posted 3.1 bWAR despite playing in only 105 games due to injury.
$4.5 million sounds about right.
Albert Almora Jr.: $1.8 million
Like Contreras, Almora is in his first arb season in 2020. Unlike Contreras, AA did not have a good year in 2019, hitting .236/.271/.381 and playing subpar defense.
He made $615,500 in 2019. I could see that doubling to $1.2 or $1.3 million, but $1.8 seems high.
Kyle Ryan: $1.1 million
Ryan had a very good year for the Cubs, posting a 3.54 ERA (that got skewed by a couple bad outings at the end of the year, it was below 3 most of the season) and 1.377 WHIP. That was good for 1.1 bWAR.
$1.1 million sounds right. It would not surprise me if Kyle and his agent asked for somewhat more than that, maybe $1.5 million.
Will Addison Russell be a Cub in 2020?
This poll is closed