As we explained back in September, Phelps’ club option rose from $1MM to $5MM after he hit several escalators. Graveman, meanwhile, will become a free agent with today’s move despite the fact that he doesn’t yet have six years of Major League service time. MLBTR reported last month that the right-hander’s contract contained a clause stipulating that he be released should his 2020 option not be picked up. Phelps’ option didn’t come with a buyout, and it doesn’t appear that the $3MM options for Barnette or Graveman did either. Morrow will be paid a $3MM buyout.
Phelps, 33, posted a solid 3.18 ERA in 17 innings with the Cubs and a similarly sharp 3.41 earned run average in 34 1/3 innings on the season as a whole (between Toronto and Chicago). However, while Phelps punched out 36 hitters in those 34 1/3 frames, he also issued 17 walks — including 10 in his 17 frames as a Cub. He also posted just a 7.8 percent swinging-strike rate on the season (9.9 percent as a Cub) and 26.8 percent opponents’ chase rate (29.7 percent as a Cub) — all of which check in south of the league average and suggest that Phelps may have had a tough time replicating those strikeout numbers. On the plus side for the veteran righty, he proved himself healthy after missing 2018 due to Tommy John surgery, so he could be in line for another big league deal this winter.
Morrow, on the other hand, didn’t prove himself to be healthy at all. The right-hander was the “buzz” free agent of the 2017-18 offseason on the heels of a dominant rebound in the Dodgers’ bullpen, but he ultimately threw just 30 2/3 innings after signing a two-year, $21MM contract that winter. Back, biceps and elbow injuries all contributed to the truncated nature of Morrow’s time on the mound as the Cubs’ closer.
Like Morrow, Graveman didn’t pitch for the Cubs in 2020. He, in fact, never stepped foot on the mound as a Cub. The right-hander inked a one-year, $575K pact after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2018 and being non-tendered by the Athletics. Chicago picked him up and helped him to rehab in 2019, with an eye toward utilizing him as an affordable starter or swingman in 2020. Whether the organization didn’t feel Graveman had progressed enough or simply didn’t wish to allocate $3MM to such a wild card isn’t clear, but he’ll head to the open market in better health than he exhibited last time around — and he’ll do so with four-plus total years of service time. In other words, any new teams that signs Graveman to a one-year deal could control him not only for 2020 but also 2021.
Barnette, meanwhile, tossed just 1 1/3 innings as a Cub after signing a $750K contract in Spring Training. He spent some time pitching with the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate as well but was eventually placed on the restricted list for personal reasons as he sought to “reevaluate” his situation with his family while taking some time away from the game.