The Curious Case of Clayton Richard

Something about to keep in mind as we roll into the final week of Spring Training: 

Richard was arbitration-eligible post-2015, but he signed a $2M non-guaranteed contract on the contract tender date (12/2) to avoid getting non-tendered. meaning if he is released within 15 days of MLB Opening Day (technically the MLB regular season starts at 3 PM EDT Sunday 4/3), his termination pay is $500K and the Cubs save $1.5M in payroll. 

The contract becomes guaranteed if he is not released by the 4/3 deadline, so if the Cubs release Richard after the start of the MLB regular season, the Cubs are on the hook for the entire $2M, minus whatever Richard gets if he signs with another club (a prorated portion of the MLB minimum salary, but ONLY if he signs a major league contract). 

This type of contract is different from the fully-guaranteed contracts MLB Article XX-B free-agents get (like Edwin Jackson's four year deal, for example), in that if the player is released before Opening Day, the player's former team is only responsible for the termination pay (30 days pay if the player is released more than 15 days prior to MLB Opening Day--as happened with Rex Brothers--or 45 days pay if the player is released within 15 days of MLB Opening Day). 

If a player signed to a non-guaranteed contract is released prior to the start of the MLB regular season, the player receives termination pay (either 30 days or 45 days pay, depending on when he is released), but the termination pay paid by the player's former club is not offset by whatever the player might get from another club. So rather than sign for the MLB minimum salary with the Cubs responsible for the balance of what the player is owed (as is/was the case with Edwin Jackson until Jackson's four year deal expires after the 2016 season), the Cubs would pay Richard $500K, and nothing Richard gets later from another club changes or offsets Richard's termination pay from the Cubs.  

This happened a couple of years ago when the Royals signed IF-OF Emilio Bonifacio to a non-guaranted $3.5M contract to avoid a non-tender but also to avoid salary arbitration, but then released him more than 15 days prior to MLB Opening Day (KC needed his 40-man roster slot), thus owing him 30 days pay (about $575K). The Cubs then signed Bonifacio for $2.5M plus another $425K in incentives (so Bonifacio essentially got the same money he would have gotten if he hadn't been released by KC), but the $575K in termination pay paid by the Royals was not affected or offset in any way by what the Cubs gave Bonifacio. 

Clayton Richard has three minor league options left (he's never been optioned to the minors for more than 19 days in any season in his career), but because he is an Article XIX-A player (he has accrued at least five years of MLB Service Time), he cannot be optioned or outrighted to the minor without his permission. This is different than the rights of an Article XX-D player (any player who has accrued at least three years of MLB Service Time and/or who has been outrighted to the minors previously in his career), who has the right to elect free-agency with no termination pay if sent outright to the minors or else accept the Outright Assignment and defer free-agency until after the conclusion of the MLB regular season. In addition to having the right to either accept the minor league assignment and postpone free-agency until after the conclusion of the MLB regular season or elect elect free-agency immediately but with no termination pay, Richard (as an Article XIX-A player) has the additional right to refuse any minor league assignment (optional or outright) and force the Cubs to either keep him on the 25-man roster, trade him, or release him.  

So normally the Cubs would be unable to option Richard to the minors (because Richard would just decline), but in this particular case, because the Cubs can release him prior to MLB Opening Day and only owe him $500K in termination pay, the Cubs actually have the leverage it would take to get Richard to accept an optional assignment to AAA Iowa AS LONG AS it happens prior to MLB Opening Day. 

But once the MLB regular season starts, Richard has the leverage, because if he is released after the start of the MLB regular season, the Cubs would owe him the entire $2M (offset by whatever he subsequently gets from another club up to the MLB minimum salary, presuming he signs a major league contract with another club after getting released). 

So don't be surprised if the Cubs either release Clayton Richard prior to MLB Opening Day (saving $1.5M in payroll), or convince him to accept an Optional Assignment to AAA Iowa (thus guaranteeing Richard his entire $2M in salary) where he can be stretched-out as a starter and be available to be recalled if anything happens to Arrieta, Lester, Lackey, Hammel, or Hendricks.

A couple of caveats: 

1. An Article XIX-A player who agrees to waive his right to refuse an Optional or Outright assignnment to the minors must sign a 45-day waiver, which allows the player to designate to which minor league club he will be assigned (almost always it's the club's AAA affiliate) and allows the club to option the player back-and-forth to the minors for up to 45 days without having to get the player to agree each time. After the 45 days expire, the Article XIX-A player does not have to be recalled if he is in the minors, but if he is recalled he cannot be optioned back to the minors unless he signs another 45 day waiver, but by that time Richard's contract will be fully-guaranteed, so he would no longer have any reason to accept an assignment to the minor leagues. 

2. Optional Asignment Waivers must be secured before Richard could be optioned to the minors, but because Optional Assignment Waivers are revocable the first time they are requested on a player in a given waiver period, they are mostly a formality (just like Trade Assignment Waivers in August). However, a rival club could put in a claim on Richard to keep the Cubs from sending him to the minors and forcing the Cubs to decide whether to keep him on the 25-man roster, trade him, or release him.  



Wow, interesting stuff Phil. Decisions are a coming.

Thanks AZ Phil. Since Richard gave up the 5 spot to the Brewers on Friday (when he came into the game with a 4-0 lead in the 9th), I was thinking his spot on the opening day roster might be in jeopardy. Having him come right back yesterday after Lackey (and allowing to score the two inherited runners) seemed like Joe Maddon was challenging CR to see if he would make the cut. I realize veteran's (especially lefty vets) get a lot of spring training slack. Would they chance having only Travis Wood out of the bullpen as a lefty? Is there something that Richard isn't doing this spring that might be blamed on injury? mechanics? or dry climate? He started last year not making the Pirates but pitched well enough in Indianapolis to get picked up by the Cubs as an emergency starter, so I would think he will be useful (to some club) if stretched out in the minors to start the year. He had an "upward mobility" clause in his contract with the Pirates, so they had to either offer him to other clubs that would put him on their roster in a 3 day window last July. I wonder if such a clause is still in his current contract or would get negotiated in if he accepts a minor league assignment. If Richard isn't on the 25 man to start the season, could you rank your predictions as to who replaces him (pitcher or fielder). Thanx.

I saw both those performances. His offerings were way too hittable. I don't think it was just the desert flattening out his breaks, though that's always the risk in Arizona. Phil will have his own insight, but I would point that a) Beeler, Brooks, Patton, and Ramirez are the guys still vying for spots who aren't considered locks to get one, and b) due to the makeup of this team, the replacement could very well be a position player. There's not a lefty on that list, though.

I have always thought his delivery must be extremely easy for hitters to pick up. He's kind of wide open when he delivers the ball. But, he does seem to get a lot of ground balls, and it sounds like the 5-spot should have only been 3 -- poor execution, plus a blown call, on the potential game-ending DP.

Chris Denorfia opts out of his minor league deal with Yankees.

per CSN/Patrick Mooney...
Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio calls Jake Arrieta's blister a "complete nonissue" after Sunday's side session.
per Roto...
Jake Arrieta (blister) threw a 46-pitch bullpen session on Sunday. It went well, and afterward Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio referred to the blister on Arrieta's right thumb as a "complete non-issue." He'll face the Angels on Opening Day.
Ah, gotta love the 16yr aged pickle brine. Slowly exhales, *checks pulse*, I'm OK.

46 pitches...that's not 80+, but this early coming off a blister issue is impressive.

AZ Phil wrote in a previous thread's comment about not needing a 5th starter until the home opener. Now that we know Arrieta is starting Opening Night (in Anaheim), do you think there's any chance Hendricks is optioned for AAA for a minor-league start, then recalled for Opening Night (in Chicago)? We know he has options and that the Cubs don't need him in the first week, even though they may prefer to run their rotation 1-5 to start building normalcy. It's a tough call, but it gives them an extra week to figure out what's going on with Ramirez, Szczur, etc.

Carrie Muskat ‏@CarrieMuskat #Cubs rotation is set. Arrieta, Lester, Lacky, Hammel, Hendricks. Maddon says he's talked to the other Ps. Cahill is backup

not a good hammel day...really good cano day. 50 pitches and 7r/er through 2ip.

Russell over-ran a 2-out, bases loaded pop-up that let in 3 runs. Still, Hammel did not look sharp.


Cubs and M's now sharing the same bullpen. The Cubs bullpen is under bee quarantine! Hayward seemed to be the most bothered. Seems like he swallowed a bug. Feed him more, 2 run HR after the bee episode. Fowler out after 2nd, Len/JD said his side tightened up. Hopefully that is just early pre-emptive move.

it's a fun game...also, the heyward mega-hardcore raw honey diet does seem to work wonders. hammel throws 103 pitches in 4.1ip

"The dogs, or the bees...Or the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark, they shoot bees at you? Well, go ahead! Do your worst!"

Recent comments

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  • Hagsag 1 hour 23 min ago (view)

    I see that Dillon Maples hasn't pitched yet. Is he injured or spending time in the lab?


  • Arizona Phil 8 hours 42 min ago (view)

    The Cubs have purchased the contract of 26-year old RHRP Jonathan de Marte from Quebec (Frontier League) and he has been assigned to AZL Cubs Blue.

    He is the closer for Team Israel and has no previous experience in affiliated ball.

    He was a NDFA out of the U. of Richmond in 2017 and has been playing independent ball for the past three seasons in the Atlantic League and Can-Am League as well as winter ball in Australia this past winter. 


  • Arizona Phil 10 hours 34 min ago (view)

    DJL: Nothing from Sunday or Monday. 


  • Arizona Phil 10 hours 34 min ago (view)

    W-RAT: Mark Zagunis was sent outright to the minors last September, and because he did not have the right to elect free-agency after being outrighted he remains under club control through the 2020 season, and so he is signed to a minor league contract that expires at 5 PM (Eastern) on the 5th day after the conclusion of the 2020 World Series. 


  • Wrigley Rat 11 hours 4 min ago (view)

    Thank you AZ Phil! Does that mean he's been signed to a minor league contract, then? Because he's out of options.


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 11 hours 59 min ago (view)

    I love these scouting reports. Thanks Phil!

    You wouldn't happen to have this info for the road games Sun and Mon?


  • Arizona Phil 12 hours 10 min ago (view)

    W-RAT: Mark Zagunis is assigned to AAA Iowa but he did not get an NRI to MLB Spring Training. He is eligible to be a minor league 6YFA post-2020 World Series if he is not added back to an MLB reserve list (40-man roster) in the meantime. 


  • Arizona Phil 12 hours 34 min ago (view)

    Most of the pitchers who threw today pitched Saturday night, so not a lot of new pitch/velo info. 

    Jon Lester:  
    FB: 86-89
    SL: 85 
    CH: 84
    CV: 70-74 
    NOTES: First Cactus League game outing of 2020 for Lester... looked uncomfortable on the mound and even when he was warming up in the bullpen before the game... stuff and command were not sharp... hopefully Lester has at least one good year left in him...  


  • Wrigley Rat 12 hours 41 min ago (view)

    Whatever happened to Mark Zagunis? I thought we still held his rights, but he was just out of options? Haven't heard anything about him in awhile & I think he would make a good platoon partner with Schwarber.


  • crunch 13 hours 49 min ago (view)

    3h 43m game today.

    at least i've seen a lot of "i need to hop on baseball reference" cubs minor leaguers and new hires in the past 2 days.

    rex brothers looked good again.


  • crunch 15 hours 47 min ago (view)

    1h 50min into the game and they're through 4 innings.

    yesterday's game was 3h 45m.


  • crunch 17 hours 5 min ago (view)

    lester seems to be leaving off where he was for the last couple months of the season in 2019.

    no one should take anything from a february spring training start...NONETHELESS...this outing looked a lot like the ones he spent in the last couple months of the season with batters sitting around waiting to swing at lester fastballs and laying off everything else.


  • crunch 1 day 13 hours ago (view)

    he paced for 20+HR last year and might have done it if he wasn't on unpaid leave for a while.  i'd handicap him as a 15-20HR guy at worst rather than saying 20HR solid.  it's probably a safer range.

    his D isn't up there with the all-time greats of the game, but it's well above average for a young guy (turned 26 last month) who can also provide some pop.  i think more than a few teams could slot him in as a middle IF starter without having much internal competition.


  • Rob Richardson 1 day 14 hours ago (view)

    He hit 20+ HR only once and that was four years ago. He has a career OBP of 312, a career SLG of 392, and is his SS defense really that special anymore?


  • crunch 1 day 15 hours ago (view)

    kinda crazy a.russell is still a free agent.

    he's not the first and probably not the last domestic abuser to "serve his time" and find contracts to sign.  there's a 20HR guy who plays great D at SS sitting out there while spring training is going down without him.

    i wonder how much he's demanding (if that's an issue at all) vs teams that want no part of him...


  • First.Pitch.120 1 day 22 hours ago (view)

    Don't forget the awesome taste of RizzO's !!!