This Friday, January 13, is the deadline for teams to exchange salary arbitration figures with arbitration-eligible players. Teams and players can avoid arbitration by reaching an agreement any time prior to the beginning of an arb hearing. In many cases, players and teams agree to a contract before filing salary figures.
Ian Happ, Codi Heuer, Nico Hoerner, Nick Madrigal and Rowan Wick are the five Cubs arb-eligible players. Brad Wieck had also been arb-eligible, but last week he signed a two-year minor league contract with the Cubs, likely a good deal for him as he is unlikely to pitch in 2023 after Tommy John surgery.
Let’s look at these five players and what they might sign for. Arbitration estimates given below are from MLB Trade Rumors.
MLBTR estimate: $10.6 million
Happ made $6.85 million in 2022 and put together the best year of his career. He hit .271/.342/.440 with a team-leading 42 doubles. He made the NL All-Star team and won a Gold Glove.
Really, the Cubs should either extend Happ or trade him; they can’t let him simply go to free agency for just a draft pick, as they did with Willson Contreras (though, as you know, Jed Hoyer had Contreras traded to Houston before Astros ownership nixed that deal).
$10.6 million sounds reasonable for Happ. Given the large salaries handed out to free agents this offseason, he might ask for more.
MLBTR estimate: $800,000
Heuer had Tommy John surgery in March 2022 and missed the entire season. It seems possible he could be back by May or June, but obviously that means he’ll miss up to a third of this year as well.
Given that he hasn’t pitched at all since the end of the 2021 season, and his career to that date can be described as “good, not great,” I think $800,000 is a reasonable estimate for what Heuer should be paid in 2023.
MLBTR estimate: $2.2 million
I’ve written a couple of times here that the Cubs should sign Nico to a long-term extension, most recently last week.
It’s still time to do that and I hope the Cubs get that done before Opening Day.
Again, given some of the large deals handed out to free agents, Hoerner might ask for quite a bit more than $2.2 million. If the Cubs could get him signed for that, it would be quite reasonable. Even twice that wouldn’t be unreasonable in today’s market.
MLBTR estimate: $1.1 million
Most of you know I’ve been down on Madrigal since his mediocre, injury-filled 2022 season. With the signing of Dansby Swanson and the move of Nico Hoerner to second base, Madrigal might be odd-man-out. He doesn’t really have the skills to be a utility infielder and he does have options remaining so he could very well wind up the starting second baseman at Triple-A Iowa, at least to start the season.
Perhaps a split contract that would pay him $1.1 million in the major leagues, less if in the minors, is in order.
MLBTR estimate: $1.5 million
Wick is a maddening player. There are times he pitches lights-out and you think, “Hey, there’s the Cubs closer.” Then there are the times when he can’t get anyone out over an extended period of time — during a 14-appearance stretch in June and July 2022, he posted an 8.56 ERA and 2.268 WHIP.
Which is the real Wick?
Nevertheless, for a pitcher with Wick’s overall track record, $1.5 million doesn’t seem unreasonable.
Which of these Cubs arb-eligible players will go to a hearing?
This poll is closed
None of the above
More than one of the above