The Cubs will not tender a contract to reliever Hector Rondon, according to ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers (via Twitter). MLBTR had projected Rondon to earn $6.2MM via arbitration — a price that was too high for Chicago and, evidently, other teams around the league.
Rondon, 29, made quite an impact as a former Rule 5 pick, turning in a quality three-year run for the organization between 2014 and 2016. Over 184 1/3 innings in that span, he turned in a 2.44 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. Though he ceded his closer role to Aroldis Chapman in the midst of the team’s World Series run, Rondon remained a major piece of the club’s late-inning mix.
That did not hold up in 2017, however, as Rondon ended the year with a 4.24 ERA in 57 1/3 frames. He struck out 10.8 batters per nine but also issued 3.1 free passes per nine innings and allowed ten long balls. Rondon did still deliver his average fastball in the 96 to 97 mph range, and turned in a personal-best 11.9% swinging-strike rate to go with a 48.3% groundball rate.
Rondon seemingly lost the confidence of skipper Joe Maddon, to the point that he did not factor in the late-inning mix during the team’s postseason run. While the Cubs’ decision to move on is not terribly surprising at this point, it’s a bit of a surprise to learn that the organization was not able to find a suitable trade partner. The one-year price tag is hardly cheap, but falls in the range of contracts that often go to somewhat less-accomplished pitchers. There’s plenty of reason to think that Rondon will catch on elsewhere, perhaps even earning consideration for high-leverage innings, but it seems he’ll need to settle for less money than the $6.2MM or so he might have expected through arbitration.