To Tender or Not to Tender - That is the Question, Bard
The Cubs MLB Reserve List (AKA "40-man roster") is presently full. Of the 40 players on the Cubs MLB Reserve List, eight (Starlin Castro, Kyuji Fujikawa, Edwin Jackson, Chang-Yong Lim, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, Ryan Sweeney, and Carlos Villanueva) are signed for 2014, and 32 (see list below) are under club control but are unsigned. The Cubs must decide by Monday (December 2nd) whether or not to tender a contract to each of the 32 unsigned players.
Each MLB club is required to submit a list of tendered players to the MLB Labor Relations Department (MLB LRD) on December 2nd (this coming Monday), and then the MLB LRD forwards a copy of the list to the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). Any unsigned player not on the list is considered to be "non-tendered," and is immediately declared an unrestricted free-agent, free to sign with any MLB or minor league club (including the player's former club). The non-tendered player is removed from the club's MLB 40-man roster, the player receives no termination pay, and the player's former club receives no compensation if the player signs with a different club/organization.
Each unsigned player on an MLB 40-man roster who is tendered a contract must be offered at least the MLB minimum salary ($500K in 2014) and (with a couple of exceptions) at least 80% of the player's previous season's salary, and at least 70% of the player's salary from two seasons back. Some players have a "minor league split" salary in their contract which they are paid if they are sent to the minors. In most cases, a player's minor league "split" salary must be at least 60% of the player's salary from the previous season. (The one exception is if a free-agent signs a major league contract with a minor league "split" salary, the "60% rule" does not apply). The 2014 minor league "split" minimum salary is $40,250 for players who are on an MLB 40-man roster for the first time, and a minimum $80,500 for all other players.
An unsigned tendered player who has accrued at least three but less than six years of MLB Service Time is automatically eligible for salary arbitration. Also, any unsigned tendered player with at least two years but less than three years of MLB Service Time who accrued at least 86 days of MLB Service Time the previous season can qualify for salary arbitration as a so-called "Super Two" if the player is among the top 22% in MLB Service Time of players in that group.
MLB clubs do NOT offer salary arbitration to their unsigned arbitration-eligible players. Rather, an MLB club either tenders or does not tender a contract to each of their unsigned players on December 2nd, and tendered players who are eligible to do so can request the MLBPA to file for salary arbitration in January if the player does not accept the club's salary tender (offer) and the player and the club have been unable to reach an agreement on a contract by the deadline.
The MLBPA is responsible for delivering all requests for salary arbitration to the MLB Labor Relations Department (MLB LRD) on the Tuesday immediately prior to the third Friday in January. Once salary arbitration has been requested, the player submits his desired salary to the MLBPA and the club submits its salary offer to the MLB LRD, and the MLBPA and MLB LRD exchange the two figures on the third Friday in January. The MLBPA and MLB LRD then schedule a hearing with a three-person arbitration panel. Hearings are held on various dates during the first three weeks of February.
The club's offer must be at least the MLB minimum salary and, in most cases, must be at least 80% of the player's previous year's salary and at least 70% of the player's salary from two seasons back. However, if the player received a raise in excess of 50% by a salary arbitration panel the previous season, a 20% maximum salary reduction from the previous season and a 30% maximum salary reduction from two seasons back does not apply, and the club only has to offer at least the MLB minimum salary.
After arbitration has been requested, the player and the club can continue to negotiate back & forth, and the player can withdraw from the process any time up until the hearing. And in fact this frequently happens, as the player and the club will often agree to just "split the difference" (something the panel cannot do). If the matter does go to a hearing, the arbitration panel must choose either the club's offer or the player's figure.
Win or lose, the player is awarded a standard one-year MLB contract with no "minor league split" salary or incentive/performance bonuses. Also, the contract is not guaranteed, so if the player is released during Spring Training, the club would only owe the player 30 days or 45 days salary as termination pay, depending on when the player is released. (A player on an MLB 40-man roster receives 100% of what remains of his salary if he is released during the regular season).
An unsigned tendered player who does not yet qualify for salary arbitration (as well as any unsigned tendered player eligible for salary arbitration who does not file for arbitration by the January deadline) ultimately has to either accept the club's salary offer or just not play. A club (usually the Assistant GM) will negotiate with the player up to a point, but if the club and the player cannot agree on a contract by the first week of March, the club has the right to unilaterally dictate the player's salary and/or renew the player's contract (albeit for an amount not less than the MLB minimum salary, and not less than 80% of the player's previous season's salary and not less than 70% of the player's salary from two season's back). These players are the ones who have a "minor league split" salary in their contract, which the player is paid if he is sent to the minors. The "minor league split" salary must be at least 60% of the player's salary from the previous season.
The Cubs will probably need at least one or two (maybe even three) 40-man roster slots for a Rule 5 Draft pick, a waiver claim, and/or a free-agent or two before the start of Spring Training, after-which they will be able to place Kyuji Fujikawa (2013 TJS) and possibly Arodys Vizcaino (2011 TJS rehab) on the 60-day Disabled List if additional 40-man roster slots are needed. (Players cannot be placed on an MLB 60-day DL until after the start of Spring Training). So I think it's likely that the Cubs will non-tender at least two players on Monday, possibly three.
While the Cubs could release, trade, or outright players to open up roster slots, there are several restrictions during the off-season on releasing and outrighting players, and even for players who can be outrighted without restriction, the Cubs might not want to risk losing the player off waivers. And the opportunity and timing needed to make a trade can be somewhat problematic. So non-tendering a player and then re-signing him to a minor league contract (or in the case of a player eligible for salary arbitration, perhaps non-tendering the player and then re-signing him to a major league contract but with a salary below what would otherwise have been the maximuim-allowable pay-cut) is just a lot easier.
At present, I would say that RHP Daniel Bard and INF Mat Gamel (especially Bard) are the two players most-likely to be non-tendered on Monday, and OF Brian Bogusevic is a possibility, too.
The Cubs claimed Bard off waivers from Boston in September, and he spent several weeks at Fitch Park in Mesa working on his mechanics before reporting to Criollos de Caguas in Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente (the Puerto Rican Winter League) in October. In three outings for Caguas, Bard faced 13 batters and retired one (on a FC), while walking nine and hitting three more (not to mention four WP), before being sent home last week.
If the Cubs tender a contract to Bard on Monday, the absolute minimum they can offer is $1.49M (80% of his 2013 salary). And if he is tendered and then he does not accept the salary offered, Bard would be able to request salary arbitration in January. If that were to happen, the Cubs would risk Bard winning in arbitration (you just never know what an aribitration panel will do) and being awarded a 2014 salary well beyond what the Cubs think he's worth. So I would not be at all surprised if the Cubs choose to non-tender Bard on Monday, and then offer him a minor league contract for a low base salary along with an NRI to Spring Training, plus maybe a player opt-out if he is not called up to Chicago by a pre-arranged date (5/1, 6/1, 7/1, etc).
The Cubs claimed Gamel off waivers from Milwaukee in October, and (like Bard) he is also eligible for salary arbitation. However, the reason for non-tendering Gamel would have more to do with his knee surgeries (he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee twice in two years) & defensive limitations (he probably projects as a 1B-DH at this point in his career) than it would the Cubs not wanting to risk going to arbitration with him, since he isn't likely to get more than $750K no matter what transpires.
But Monday is not just about clubs tendering or non-tendering contracts to arbitration-eligible players. Clubs also must decide whether to tender a 2014 major league contract to any and all unsigned players on the 40-man roster, regardless of whether the player is eligible for salary arbitration or not.
It's also the one time in the off-season when an unsigned player can be removed from the 40-man roster without having to give the player his Outright Release (a released player could be claimed off waivers, and even if he is released and then re-signed, he cannot be added back to the club's 40-man roster until May 15th) or risk losing the player off Outright Assignment Waivers (which are irrevocable if the player is claimed) sometime later in the off-season or during Spring Training.
Last year, the Cubs non-tendered RHPs Jaye Chapman and Zach Putnam, even though neither was arbitration-eligible. But it did allow the Cubs to remove the pitchers from the 40-man roster without having to give them an Outright Release or risk losing them off Outright Assignment Waivers. They then re-signed the pair to minor league contracts (with salaries probably at least equal to what they would have received if they had remained on the 40) plus an NRI to Spring Training. (Becoming a "second-contract" player once he was non-tendered, Putnam also was able to qualify for minor league free-agency a year earlier than he otherwise would have if he had been outrighted).
Just like Chapman and Putnam last year, the Cubs could possibly opt to non-tender OF Brian Bogusevic (unlike Bard and Gamel, Bogusevic is not arbitration-eligible) and then re-sign him to a 2014 minor league contract (for a salary equal to or greater than what he would have received if he had remained on the 40) plus an NRI to Spring Training. Bogusevic is out of minor league options and can elect free-agency if outrighted, so by non-tendering him and then re-signing him to a minor league contract, the Cubs would be able to send him to AAA Iowa if he does not make the Opening Day 25-man roster without having to risk losing him off Outright Assignment Waivers or having him elect free-agency if waivers are secured and he does get outrighted.
The main problem with non-tendering a player and then re-signing him to a minor league contract is that the player has to agree to the arrangement, and even if the player does go along with the plan, the club has to make sure to wait at least ten days after non-tendering the player before re-signing him to a minor league contract (what the Cubs did with both Chapman and Putnam last year). That's because a player who signs a minor league contract prior to the Rule 5 Draft is eligible for selection in the draft. Also, during the ten-days between being non-tendered (on 12/2) and the Rule 5 Draft (on 12/12), the non-tendered player could conceivably get a better offer from another club and sign elsewhere.
Here are the 32 unsigned players presently on the Cubs MLB 40-man roster, with the roster restrictions associated with each player:
Daniel Bard (can request salary arbitration in January - can elect to be free-agent if outrighted)
Dallas Beeler (Draft-Excluded player - cannot be outrighted until 20 days prior to MLB Opening Day)
Alberto Cabrera (out of minor league options - Rule 55 player - cannot be outrighted until he signs 2014 contract)
Blake Parker (can elect to be free-agent if outrighted)
Hector Rondon (can elect to be free-agent if outrighted)
Zac Rosscup (Draft-Excluded player - cannot be outrighted until 20 days prior to MLB Opening Day)
James Russell (can request salary arbitration in January - can elect to be free-agent if outrighted)
Jeff Samardzija (out of minor league options - can request salary arbitration in January - can elect to be free-agent if outrighted)
Pedro Strop (out of minor league options - "Super Two" - can request salary arbitration in January - can elect free-agency if outrighted)
Travis Wood (out of minor league options - can request salary arbitration in January - can elect to be free-agent if outrighted)
Welington Castillo (out of minor league options - Rule 55 player - cannot be outrighted until he signs 2014 contract)
George Kottaras (out of minor league options - can request salary arbitration in January - can elect to be free-agent if outrighted)
Arismendy Alcantara (Draft-Excluded player - cannot be outrighted until 20 days prior to MLB Opening Day)
Darwin Barney (can request salary arbitration in January - can elect free-agency if outrighted)
Mat Gamel (out of minor league options - can request salary arbitration in January - can elect free-agency if outrighted)
Donnie Murphy (out of minor league options - can request salary arbitration in January - can elect free-agency if outrighted)
Luis Valbuena (out of minor league options - can request salary arbitration in January - can elect free-agency if outrighted)
Josh Vitters (Rule 55 player - cannot be outrighted until he signs 2014 contract)
Brian Bogusevic (out of minor league options - can elect free-agency if outrighted)
Junior Lake (Rule 55 player - cannot be outrighted until he signs 2014 contract)
Nate Schierholtz (out of minor league options - can request salary arbitration in January - can elect free-agency if outrighted)
Eric S 2 hours 49 min ago (view)
Credit to Mills bouncing back strong - fifth straight quality start by the rotation certainly helps things. Yu for the series win tomorrow
crunch 2 hours 53 min ago (view)
schwarber in the bottom 10th! walkoff homer.
Jackstraw 3 hours 4 min ago (view)
Throws strikes like Chatwood. Holds runners like Darvish.
Eric S 3 hours 13 min ago (view)
This smells like a Chatwood game.
Eric S 3 hours 15 min ago (view)
Almora - what a tool non-play there.
crunch 3 hours 29 min ago (view)
phew...kimbrel is fresh off taking a half season away from the game, but im ready for a bit less drama out of his appearances.
crunch 3 hours 32 min ago (view)
lorenzen is low-key one of the most exciting players in the game, seriously. he's fun on the mound, at the plate, and baserunning.
Eric S 3 hours 36 min ago (view)
Well that settles it: Lorenzen is a better base runner than Brach. Brach haint got nuttin’
crunch 3 hours 37 min ago (view)
rizzo's power outage has been a little alarming. it seems to be bad luck more than anything obvious, though.
Eric S 3 hours 45 min ago (view)
Near warning track power Rizzo not nearly as fun as home run derby Rizzo
Eric S 3 hours 57 min ago (view)
More rare sighting in last few weeks: a Descalso plate appearance or a Rizzo home run? Descalso PA wins by an eyelash
Descalso actually had one his better at bats (even though he should have been rung up on a missed strike three) — a line drive one hopper to the shortstop
crunch 4 hours 20 min ago (view)
they're celebrating the 69 cubs at the park tonight.
they had a bunch of vets (led by billy williams) do the 7th along with a video edited together of ernie banks + ron santo singing the 7th so they could all sing along. great touch.
crunch 4 hours 44 min ago (view)
montgomery is going to be used as a SP for KC. good for him.
also, a.mills has calmed down into a hell of a nice welcome back start. he's back on my xmas card list.
crunch 6 hours 53 sec ago (view)
31 pitches, 3 HBP by mills...and only 3 runs given up in 1.2ip so far!
crunch 6 hours 17 min ago (view)
okay, im done with alec mills.
crunch 6 hours 24 min ago (view)
almora picks up a career highlight reel catch in CF.
even heyward was pumped.