- Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts was dismissive of the notion that collusion has slowed the free-agent market in an interview with Patrick Mooney of The Athletic (subscription required & recommended). Ricketts pointed out that in previous years, some teams have somewhat quietly inked new television deals or had those deals kick in, which has led to unexpected spending. (Ricketts doesn’t mention instances by name, though that was very likely a component in the D-backs’ signing of Zack Greinke, for instance.) Asked about the possibility of further spending for his own team, Ricketts replied: “Theo has the resources to do whatever he needs to do to win on the field. … I don’t know what’s going to happen with the guys that are out there, whether it’s a good fit for us.” Mooney also chats with newly promoted AGM Scott Harris about the slow offseason.
- It doesn’t appear as though Joe Maddon and the Cubs have any talks about an extension, though the manager said during this weekend’s Cubs Convention (as reported by The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney) that he doesn’t “ever try to strike up those kind of conversations….I believe if we take care of our own business properly, that’s the kind of stuff that takes care of itself. I’ve always relied on that thought. So I’m not concerned about that. I am a Cub right now. And I want to be a Cub for many years to come.” Maddon is under contract through the 2019 season, so there isn’t any immediate need for either side to press for extension negotiations already. Maddon’s comments also make it seem as if he has no plans to retire anytime soon, which is notable given that he turns 64 next month.
- The Cubs and third baseman Kris Bryant haven’t engaged in long-term extension talks this winter, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told Patrick Mooney of The Athletic on Friday (subscription required/highly recommended). The two sides avoided arbitration Friday when Bryant agreed to a $10.85MM salary – a record amount for a first-time arb-eligible player. While Bryant won’t become a free agent for at least four seasons, Nationals superstar right fielder Bryce Harper could hit the market next winter. If Harper does become a free agent, Bryant informed Mooney he “would love” for the Cubs to sign him. The two have been close friends since childhood, which could help the Cubs if they attempt to recruit Harper.
- The Cubs are “not done” and are focused especially on the pitching staff, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said today (via ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers). He said it’s still possible the organization will pursue “depth moves” or that it will add “another real quality pitcher.” Is free agent Jake Arrieta still a possibility? “We’ve never ruled anything out with him,” says Epstein, as MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat tweets.
We’ve covered a whole lot of arbitration deals today, many of them reached before today’s deadline to exchange filing figures. Some other agreements have come together after team and player submitted their numbers. It’s still possible, of course, that these situations will be resolved before an arbitration hearing becomes necessary. (At this point, we seem to lack full clarity on teams’ approaches to negotiations after the filing deadline. And most organizations make exceptions for multi-year deals even if they have a file-and-trial stance.)
Some situations could even be dealt with in short order. As things stand, though, these unresolved arbitration cases could turn into significant hearings. (As always, MLBTR’s 2018 arbitration projections can be found here; you will also want to reference MLBTR’s 2018 arbitration tracker.)
- Mookie Betts, Red Sox: expected to go to hearing, per Alex Speier of the Boston Globe; Betts filed at $10.5MM, Boston countered at $7.5MM (per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag, via Twitter)
- George Springer, Astros: did not settle, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter); Springer filed at $10.5MM, Houston countered at $8.5MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Ken Giles, Astros: did not settle, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter); Giles filed at $4.6MM, Houston countered at $4.2MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Collin McHugh, Astros: did not settle, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter); McHugh filed at $5.0MM, Houston countered at $4.55MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Jonathan Schoop, Orioles: Schoop filed at $9MM, Baltimore countered at $7.5MM (per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, via Twitter)
- Kevin Gausman, Orioles: Gausman filed at $6.225MM, Baltimore countered at $5.3MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays: Stroman filed at $6.9MM, Toronto countered at $6.5MM (per Nightengale, via Twitter)
- Roberto Osuna, Blue Jays: Osuna filed at $5.8MM, Toronto countered at $5.3MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Jose Iglesias, Tigers: Iglesias filed at $6.8MM, Detroit countered at $5.6MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Avisail Garcia, White Sox: Garcia filed at $6.7MM, Chicago countered at $5.85MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Trevor Bauer, Indians: Bauer filed at $6.525MM, Cleveland countered at $5.3MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Jake Odorizzi, Rays: Odorizzi filed at $6.3MM, Tampa Bay countered at $6.05MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Adeiny Hechavarria, Rays: Hechavarria filed at $5.9MM, Tampa Bay countered at $5.35MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Scooter Gennett, Reds: expected to go to hearing, per Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer; Gennett filed at $5.7MM, Cincinnati countered at $5.1MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Eugenio Suarez, Reds: expected to go to hearing, per Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer; Suarez filed at $4.2MM, Cincinnati countered at $3.75MM (per MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, via Twitter)
- Shelby Miller, Diamondbacks: Miller filed at $4.9MM, Arizona countered $4.7MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Kyle Gibson, Twins: Gibson filed at $4.55MM, Minnesota countered at $4.2MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- J.T. Realmuto, Marlins: have not agreed to terms, per team announcement; Realmuto filed at $3.5MM, Miami countered at 2.9MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Dan Straily, Marlins: have not agreed to terms, per team announcement; Straily filed at $3.55MM, Miami countered at $3.37MM (per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, via Twitter)
- Justin Bour, Marlins: have not agreed to terms, per team announcement; Bour filed at $3.4MM, Miami countered at $3MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Brandon Maurer, Royals: have hit stalemate, per Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com (via Twitter); Maurer filed at $3.5MM, Kansas City countered at $2.95MM (per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, via Twitter)
- Felipe Rivero, Pirates: Rivero filed at $2.9MM, Pittsburgh countered at $2.4MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Kendall Graveman, Athletics: Graveman filed at $2.6MM, Oakland countered at $2.36MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Justin Grimm, Cubs: Grimm filed at $2.475MM, Chicago countered at $2.2MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Mike Foltynewicz, Braves: Foltynewicz filed at $2.3MM, Atlanta countered at $2.2MM (per Heyman, via Twitter)
- Zack Wheeler, Mets: Wheeler filed at $1.9MM, New York countered at $1.5MM (per Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, via Twitter)
- Other tendered players who have not yet reportedly agreed to terms: Yolmer Sanchez, White Sox; Brad Hand, Padres
- The Cubs have struck a deal with lefty Justin Wilson, agreeing to a one-year, $4.25MM pact, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link). Wilson, who had been projected at $4.3MM, will be a free agent next winter. The Cubs alsoagreed to a $950K salary with infielder Tommy La Stella, tweets MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. La Stella was projected to make $1MM in his first offseason of arbitration eligiblity and can be controlled through 2020. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs have agreed to a $4.175MM salary, per Nightengale (on Twitter). That sum comes in a fair bit shy of his projected $4.9MM projection as a first-time eligible player. The Cubs control Hendricks through the 2020 season. Chicago also agreed with Addison Russell, per Wittenmyer (Twitter link). The shortstop will receive $3.2MM for the coming season.
The Cubs have reached a record-setting deal with star third baseman Kris Bryant, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (via Twitter). He will earn $10.85MM, setting a new high-water mark for first-time arb-eligible players.
Previously, Ryan Howard held the record for the biggest arbitration payout to a player entering the process for the first time. His $10MM mark had held sway since 2010. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz broke down Bryant’s case recently, suggesting he felt it somewhat more likely that Bryant would not quite top Howard.
Of course, there could be other factors weighing on the situation, including the controversy over Bryant’s initial promotion timeline and the fact that the Cubs would no doubt like to work out an extension if possible. Paying a bit extra and giving Bryant a record-setting deal may end up working to Chicago’s benefit. And it was no doubt preferable for the club to steer clear of a hearing.
In the spring of 2015, Chicago decided not to take Bryant north with the MLB club when it broke camp, instead waiting a few weeks to bring him up for his first big league action. That delay left the Cubs free to control him through 2021, rather than 2020, but spurred a grievance action and also left Bryant eligible to qualify for arbitration in 2018 — meaning he’ll get four bites at the apple through the arb process.
The Cubs’ approach still clearly favors the organization in the long run. But Bryant nevertheless now stands to take down some massive earnings throughout the arbitration process. He’ll have three more seasons to tack raises on top of his hefty $10.85MM starting point.
- There are still ongoing signals that the Cubs could make a splash. As Paul Sullivan writes for the Chicago Tribune, surprise winter additions are fairly commonplace in Wrigleyville. Manager Joe Maddon suggested yesterday that he believes the front office is still looking to build out the roster, Madeline Kenney of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Maddon spoke highly of both Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb, Kenney writes, and the skipper also hinted that president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer may not yet be done in adding pieces to the bullpen mix for the 2018 campaign.
Recently, I have been discussing some of the higher-profile upcoming arbitration cases as part of MLBTR’s Arbitration Breakdown series. I rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong. Full arbitration projections for 2018 are also available.
Star Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant enters arbitration for the first time with a compelling case to compete with historical records. The current record for first time eligible players still goes all the way back to Ryan Howard in 2008, who earned $10MM after a 47 home run season that brought his career total to 129 home runs. While that price point is now ten years old, it is still an unbroken record. Buster Posey got close with $8MM, but that is already five years old.
Those two players share something in common with Bryant and no one else: they had received both a Rookie of the Year Award and a Most Valuable Player Award prior to entering arbitration. The only other such player would have been Mike Trout, but he signed a multi-year deal the year before reaching arbitration eligibility. Awards can be a huge part of arbitration hearings, especially for first-time eligible players like this, which immediately explains why Bryant is projected to earn $8.9MM, nearly halfway between Posey and Howard. Joey Votto also had an MVP Award (but no ROY) in 2011 when he received an $8MM salary, but he ended up agreeing to a multi-year deal and did not exchange figures before that, so he is not very useful for our purposes.
When it comes to actual numbers rather than hardware, Bryant has a good case as well. He hit .295/29/73 in his platform year and has amassed .288/94/274 for his career. Howard hit .268/47/136 in his platform, with .291/129/353 in his career. So he would be appear to represent a ceiling if the deal was more recent. That said, Bryant might argue that his case is old enough that it should not act as a ceiling on his earnings.
Posey hit .336/24/103 in his platform year and had .314/46/191 for his career line entering arbitration. The batting average (and the fact that he is a catcher) makes Posey look more favorable, but the fact that Bryant has twice the career home runs might make his case more impressive in a process that leans heavily on home runs. Votto’s numbers are actually somewhat closer though, with a .324/37/113 platfrom and .314/90/298 career. Of course, his multi-year deal limits his usefulness as a comparable.
Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado could serve as floors. Neither had the hardware, and both had relatively similar numbers except for far fewer career home runs when they entered the arb process. Machado had a .286/35/86 platform and a .281/68/215 career, while Arenado had a .287/42/130 platform and a .281/70/243 career. So I would guess that their identical $5MM salaries two years ago are a solid floor for Bryant.
I suspect Posey might actually be the best comparable, despite the fact that he plays a premium defensive position. Adding in salary inflation, his $8MM salary in 2013 puts Bryant around $9.5MM. I suspect he will not break Howard’s record, so this seems pretty believable. The Cubs could easily try to argue for a lower number like Arenado or Machado, but probably will have trouble making that case. However, the team could still try to push Bryant south of Posey’s $8MM. There is a large range of plausible outcomes for a case like this; it would represent a fascinating hearing if it went to a panel.
Yu Darvish is widely considered to be the top starting pitcher available in free agency, and while his market — like the market of nearly every other top free agent this winter — has been slow to progress, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Darvish has whittled the decision down to a handful of teams: the Rangers, Cubs, Astros, Twins and Yankees. Darvish himself has hardly been shy about stirring the pot on social media this winter, though, and he created an additional layer of intrigue tonight when he responded to the report by tweeting: “I know one more team is in.” The Dodgers may very well be the sixth team to which Darvish alluded, as Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times tweeted tonight that Los Angeles “remains in the mix” to bring Darvish back to L.A.
In his column, Wilson once again cautions that the Rangers aren’t a prime suitor for Darvish. The right-hander, according to Wilson, would prefer to return to Arlington were all things equal, but the Rangers aren’t expected to pursue top-tier free agents, as has reportedly been the case for the entire winter. Wilson reported three months ago that Texas was aiming to trim payroll by about $10MM for the coming season, which would leave them around $155MM overall. A backloaded contract for Darvish could technically still make that goal possible, but Wilson strongly suggests that the Rangers won’t be making any moves of the “all-in” variety this winter. The Rangers’ payroll projects to check in around $144MM as things presently stand.
Both the Yankees and Astros have been prominently linked to another high-end rotation candidate recently, as both have been said in recent weeks to be in talks for Pittsburgh righty Gerrit Cole. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow earlier today shot down a report that his team had struck an agreement to acquire Cole, but both New York and Houston appear to have some level of interest more cost-effective trade candidates.
The Yankees, of course, have been hard at work trying to bolster their 2018 roster while simultaneously remaining south of the luxury tax barrier (to great success thus far), while Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported just yesterday (subscription required and recommended) that Houston prefers to trade for a pitcher like Cole rather than shell out a massive contract to Darvish or another free-agent starter. If the Yankees can find a way to shed a significant portion of Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract (which seems unlikely) or if the Astros ultimately deem all of their trade targets too expensive in terms of prospects, then perhaps on of those clubs will take a more serious look at Darvish.
Minnesota, meanwhile, has long been reported to be one of the more aggressive teams on Darvish, who knows Twins GM Thad Levine quite well from the pair’s time with the Rangers. Of all the teams in the mix, the Twins’ payroll outlook is by far the most open (zero dollars on the books beyond the 2019 season). As for the Cubs, they’ve been tied to Darvish, Jake Arrieta and fellow righty Alex Cobb as they seek to round out their rotation and remain atop a competitive NL Central division.
The Dodgers, like the Yankees, are facing some self-imposed financial restrictions. Both clubs are trying to reset their luxury tax penalty level, and the Dodgers look to have done so in the Adrian Gonzalez/Scott Kazmir/Brandon McCarthy/Matt Kemp trade. Bringing Darvish back into the fold would once again push them north of the tax line, L.A. is also looking for ways in which to shed Kemp’s contract. As is the case with the Yankees and Ellsbury, finding a taker for a notable portion of that deal could create additional flexibility.