The contracts of 18 Cubs minor league players expire on October 15th, and so each of the 18 is eligible to be a free-agent. The Cubs have until the day after the conclusion of the World Series to decide whether to add a potential minor league free-agent to their 40-man roster (which the player cannot refuse), offer the player a minor league contract for the following season (which the player can refuse), or just allow the player to walk away.
Several of the 18 players were orginally signed by the Cubs and have completed their required seven years of minor league service (they are known as "Six-Year Minor League Free-Agents" because their contracts were automatically renewed by the Cubs for the maximum six seasons).
Others are previously-released and/or itinerant minor league players from other organizations who were signed as free-agents last off-season or during the 2007 season, and these players become free-agents after every season as long as they are not on a MLB 40-man roster on October 15th.
The Cubs would appear to have a need for experienced utility middle infelders at both AA and AAA in 2008 and an experienced catcher with some major league experience at AAA, so a couple or three of their FA infielders (Cates, Chirinos, Nelson, Rojas, and/or Salas) and a catcher (K. Hill and/or Mahoney) might be offered 2008 minor league contracts, although the player would have the option to decline the offer. The Cubs might also choose to look outside the organization to fill those needs.
To entice a minor league free-agent to sign a 2008 minor league contract (especially a player with major league experience), the Cubs would probably have to offer a salary equivalent to a minor league split contract for a player on the 40-man roster ($60K+) plus an NRI (Non-Roster Intivation) to 2008 Spring Training.
Last year, the Cubs convinced 6YMiLFA LHP Carmen Pignatiello
to re-sign by offering him a slot in the Arizona Fall League plus an NRI to ST (and probably a $60K+ minor league salary). They did the same a year before that with 6YMiLFA 1B Brandon Sing
. However, no such deal (AFL slot plus NRI) was arranged with any of the minor league FAs this time around, so that would tend to indicate that the Cubs aren't particularly interested in retaining any of the 18.
OF Josh Kroeger
is probably the best player on this year's Cubs MiLFA list, but I would think he will most-likely choose to sign elsewhere, probably someplace where he will get both an NRI to ST 2008 and a decent chance of making his new club's Opening Day 25-man roster as a 4th OF/LHPH. If the Cubs had been interested in retaining Kroeger, they probably would have added him to their 40-man roster in September.
Side-armin' LHP Geoff Jones
pitched great out of the bullpen at Tennessee, but he's 29 years old and has never pitched effectively above AA. He received a well-deserved mid-season promotion to Iowa, but was not effective pitching in AAA and was returned to AA Tennessee, where he finished the season. As with Kroeger, if the Cubs were interested in retaining Jones, they probably would have added him to the 40-man roster last month.
Clubs retain exclusive negotiating rights with their own minor league free-agents up until the end of the World Series, and then minor league FAs are perimitted to sign with any of the 30 MLB clubs if not added to their club's 409-man roster.
MINOR LEAGUE FA IF NOT ADDED TO CUBS 40-MAN ROSTER BY END OF WORLD SERIES
, INF (6YMiLFA)
, RHP (non-tendered by Cubs on 12/12/06, then was re-signed to minor league contract)
, LHP (released by Cubs on 11/20/06, then was re-signed to minor league contract)
, INF (6YMiLFA)
, INF (6YMiLFA)