The Cubs are next in our 2012 Contract Issues series.
Eligible For Free Agency (5)
- Kosuke Fukudome has had a respectable Cubs career, getting on base at a .370 clip and playing solid right field defense. However, he hasn't hit for much power and he has been streaky, mixing great months with terrible ones. He's a useful player, but not a $12MM one, and I think this is his last year with the Cubs.
- Carlos Pena is probably a rental, one that could benefit both sides if he rediscovers his 35 home run pop.
- John Grabow's extension was questionable when it was signed, and he'll probably be allowed to leave.
- Kerry Wood might be retained if he has a solid year, though the Cubs probably won't manage a $1.5MM base salary in that case.
- Reed Johnson is also eligible for free agency after the season.
Contract Options (2)
- Aramis Ramirez: $16MM mutual/vesting option for 2012 with a $2MM buyout. Ramirez has a complicated contract. He can void the 2012 option and forfeit the buyout, which seems possible with a strong year. The option can vest in various situations, the most likely of which is Ramirez being traded unless you are optimistic about the third baseman winning the NL or NLCS MVP award. He can still void the option if it vests, so Ramirez once again controls his fate. The difference this time will be the Cubs' ability to decline their side.
- Ryan Dempster: $14MM player option. The Cubs are also at the mercy of Dempster. If the righty's 2011 is similar to his 2008-10 campaigns, the best business move would be to decline the option and seek a new contract. However, he does have a long relationship with Cubs GM Jim Hendry.
Arbitration Eligible (6)
- First time: Randy Wells, Blake DeWitt
- Second time: Geovany Soto
- Third time: Matt Garza, Jeff Baker, Koyie Hill
Assuming at least Wells, Soto, and Garza are tendered contracts, the Cubs might be looking at $17MM or so in arbitration salaries. They might be able to reduce their 2012 obligation by agreeing to an extension with Soto or Garza.
2012 Payroll Obligation
Not counting Ramirez's buyout or Dempster's salary, the Cubs have a 2012 payroll obligation of $56.6MM, significantly below their typical $135MM range. If Ramirez and Dempster have poor seasons, the Cubs might have to add another $2MM for Ramirez's buyout and $14MM for Dempster's 2012 salary, bringing the obligation to $72.6MM. The team could have needs in the rotation and at both infield corners, plus a lot of money to spend, so it should be an interesting 2011-12 offseason.