6:46pm: The Cubs have informed outfielder Kyle Schwarber that he won’t be tendered a contract for the upcoming season, ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reports (via Twitter). USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported prior that “barring a change of plans,” the Cubs were intent on non-tendering both Schwarber and center fielder Albert Almora Jr. The Cubs do plan on tendering a contract to third baseman Kris Bryant, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman indicated earlier in the week. Both Schwarber and Almora will become free agents once their non-tenders are made official.
Schwarber, 27, is coming off a rough season in which he put together just a .188/.308/.393 batting line in 224 plate appearances. The former No. 4 overall draft pick walked at a characteristically strong 13.4 percent clip this past season, but his 29.5 percent strikeout rate was the highest mark he’s posted since 2017. At his best, Schwarber is an above-average power bat with passable left-field defense, but he’s also had plenty of defensive struggles throughout his career.
Schwarber earned $7MM in 2020 and was due a raise on that sum. As we saw with the Twins and Eddie Rosario, who cleared waivers today, that’s not a price point at which teams appear anxious to pay above-average hitters with some notable flaws (on-base percentage in Rosario’s case; defense and strikeouts for Schwarber).
The decision to jettison Almora is far less surprising. Though he was once rated as a high-end prospect and potential everyday center fielder, the 26-year-old hasn’t provided value at the plate over the past three seasons, batting a combined .261/.299/.373 (77 wRC+). He’s a talented defender with passable career numbers against left-handed pitching, however, so he could latch on as a fourth outfielder with another club.
Tendering a contract to Bryant, meanwhile, puts the Cubs in line to pay him a raise on this year’s $18.6MM salary. For a Cubs team looking to reduce payroll, he’s still a likely trade candidate, although finding a deal could be tricky. Bryant battled injuries and hit just .206/.293/.351 in 34 games this past season, which would give potential trade partners cause for concern (as would his salary). The ceiling here, of course, is an MVP-caliber player on a reasonable one-year deal, but teams aren’t going to value him as such in light of recent struggles. Convincing a trade partner to not only absorb Bryant’s salary but also to surrender some young talent of note could prove difficult for newly minted president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer.