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:

Jake Arrieta
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)
Justin Grimm
Blake Parker (can elect to be free-agent if outrighted)
Brooks Raley
Neil Ramirez
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)
Chris Rusin
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)
Arodys Vizcaino
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)
Mike Olt
Luis Valbuena (out of minor league options - can request salary arbitration in January - can elect free-agency if outrighted)
Christian Villanueva
Josh Vitters (Rule 55 player - cannot be outrighted until he signs 2014 contract)
Logan Watkins

Brian Bogusevic (out of minor league options - can elect free-agency if outrighted)
Brett Jackson
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)
Matt Szczur




Phil, Great job with this piece as usual. Thanks.

Awesome detail AZ Phil. I didn't realize how thin the Cubs were in the OF, although Josh Vitters might be considered a LF these days. I forgot Ryan Sweeney signed after the season for 2/$3.5 including $500K buyout in 2016.

2015 opening day outfield soler, almora, bryant

Still not sold on Soler, need to see consistency. As for Almora, that might be a little aggressive. I'm thinking mid-15 callup. He's raw, but the talent is there.

Agree with the mid-'15 callup--he has to stay healthy and get his ticket punched at Daytona and Tenn--but not with the description of Almora as "raw." Still nineteen, Almora has been described as polished, as in, "Scouts say Almora has more polish and better makeup than any high schooler in recent memory." (Try searching "Almora" and "polished.") Polished is the opposite of raw.

so are people starting to think that Baez ends up at 2B, with Villanueva at 3B and Bryant in OF?

I dont think Bryant will be MLB third baseman.

people are all over the place with baez, but im hearing a lot more 3rd/SS than 2nd lately...though all 3 seem to be in play. bryant 3rd/OF...hearing a lot more OF lately than 3rd, especially after AFL. if he does end up in LF, he'll have one hell of a LF'r arm.

from Nick Cafardo's Sunday column...
Daniel Bard isn’t getting any better. After three appearances for Criollos de Caguas in the Puerto Rican League, Bard weighed in with a 189.00 ERA. He had allowed eight runs, seven earned, with nine walks, four wild pitches, and no strikeouts in one-third of an inning. Bard, 28, has lost complete control, even after the Cubs acquired him off waivers from the Red Sox in September. Bard was hoping to reestablish himself with a new team, but efforts to straighten him out by first pitching well in Puerto Rico haven’t worked out. “He’s working at it,” said Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “He’s not giving up.” Bard has not pitched since that one outing and it appears he may be a candidate to be released. He had a 1.93 ERA across 74⅔ innings for Boston in 2010, but his career went south fast starting in August 2011. He was once the best setup man in baseball, but once he became a starter in 2012 spring training, Bard’s career spiraled downward. He has lost both velocity and confidence. “Nobody can seem to figure it out,” said one Cubs official. “I think the Red Sox tried a lot of different things, but none of them worked. They exhausted what they felt were all the possibilities. Now it’s up to us to find something that works.” The Cubs are expected to keep working with Bard. They can afford to have a much longer leash on him than the Red Sox did. “Pretty much the same issues he had with the Red Sox,” said one National League scout. “He can’t seem to locate; his release points aren’t consistent. There are plenty of mechanical things wrong. He just can’t seem to repeat that delivery. I know the Cubs hope it all comes back to him, and we all hope it does. For his sake. We all remember what he was and we’re all baffled by what’s happened. Boston did a lot with him psychologically and physically, so everyone’s waiting for something to click.”

and Cafardo's updates on nine:
1, Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Cubs — Trade talks have been going on and when push comes to shove, he might get traded. But the Cubs’ No. 1 preference would be to re-sign Samardzija and lock him in beyond 2015 and build their future around him, according to a major league source. The Cubs will continue to work on both fronts until the culmination of a long-term extension has been reached or if the extension is improbable.

Really seems like a golden sell high opportunity. I do realize he is a candidate for a huge year someday, but I wouldn't mind seeing a few more high end prospects enter the fold since it looks like next year is going to be another "let's watch the turnstyles slow down" year.

If the Cubs trade him, I would want to see two very high-end starting pitching prospects come back, and preferably not 19-year-olds. I'd much rather see signing him to an extension be the Cubs first direct step toward fielding a competitive team in the near future (2015-ish).

"two very high-end starting pitching prospects" Or one Archie Bradley. In all seriousness, Arizona has so many good-looking arms and a need for a MLB SP, I really hope the Cubs work the hell out of that angle.

fwiw...file under "cubs world series 2014" "According to Carrie Muskat of, the Cubs are likely to tender a contract to second baseman Darwin Barney before Monday's deadline."

Color me unsurprised. So, pretty much how I look right now.

same...just tossing it up there cuz it passed through. the good new is valbuena is playing 2nd in winter the cubs just need m.olt to be worth a damn this spring. also, that being good news is sad. fwiw, valbuena...63ab, 17h, 3 doubles, 2hr, 8bb, 12k... .270/.352/.413

Valbuena....I like him as the utility guy, but I don't really want him or Barney at 2B. .222/.302/.352 in 1500 PA's...ugh.

The end of the bench by Chris Jaffe Sometimes, the little things matter. The ability to turn the double play. Taking the extra pitch. Moving the runners over. Sometimes those little things, which can be overlooked easily, add up. Done once or twice, they don’t mean much. But over the course of the season ... yeah, they can add up. Sometimes, they can even make the difference between going to the postseason and staying at home.

Darnell McDonald resigned to minor league deal with spring training invite

ex-Cub Russ Canzler signs minor league deal with Yankees

Navarro gets 2/8M from Blue Jays

Recent comments

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  • BobbyD 3 hours 12 min ago (view)

    Cubster: I agree with your comments, save one. That the president is "leading" America. He couldn't lead a pack of rats to a NYC dumpster on an August afternoon. The "man" is a f'ing disgrace. 


  • crunch 5 hours 30 min ago (view)

    though the team cheaped out on this offseason (still an overall top-tier payroll), i was at least looking forward to seeing the beginning of the david ross era...and who was going to win the 2nd base job...

    nothing about 2020 baseball feels legit anymore.  just hearing the players talk about it, you'd think they were organizing a casual pickup game for charity at an inconvient time and place...doesn't seem like they're really stoked about it.


  • Cubster 6 hours 39 min ago (view)

    June 1st is a week from tomorrow. Given 5 weeks of spring training before starting (July 4th?), the season is on the brink of going bye-bye. It's bad enough in 2020 to be losing prime career years for Javy Baez and Kris Bryant, let alone Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Kyle Hendricks, and Willson Contreras. If one of them gets coronavirus, loses lung capacity, and alters their career arc, Cub fans will for a long time have a bitter taste in their mouths. All for, at best,  a bizarre half-season without fans watching in the ballparks.


  • Alexander Dimm 11 hours 48 min ago (view)

    HAGSAG: I've been following this all spring and I fully agree.  Let's not risk the health of these ballplayers.  Let's plan for 2021 an be done with 2020.  I know that whole game will be changed next year but it's already morphing now.  Just start with a clean slate.  I don't want scientists watching baseball when they should be working on a vaccine.


  • Hagsag 16 hours 26 min ago (view)

    I love baseball as much as anyone, but I cant see this working. Put the 2020 season on the shelf and plan for 2021. 


  • crunch 1 day 6 hours ago (view)

    i still don't understand how any of this retains momentum if a team has an outbreak...

    it seems like that would put a pause on things not only effecting the team with the outbreak, but the schedule and future opponents...and past opponents who recently played the team with an outbreak...

    if it gets started, hopefully it can roll to end without going off the rails.  it all seems so fragile with a lot of moving pieces.


  • CubbyBlue 1 day 6 hours ago (view)

    I wish I felt better about the possibility of baseball this year. All those details - it just seems like something's not going to work. And to me the worst thing that could happen is they get started and 2 weeks later have to shut it down, then try to start it up again. 
    Baseball's role this summer is meant to uplift, and that scenario feels soul-crushing.


  • crunch 2 days 3 hours ago (view)

    add the bjays to the list...

    whatever works to get people paid.


  • crunch 2 days 5 hours ago (view)

    "Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Brewers will keep their baseball operations staff intact for all of 2020.

    There will be no furloughs and only top executives in the organization will take pay cuts."

    2020 has officially crossed the line now...making me like the brewers...

    seriously though, it's about time some of these 100s-millionaire to billionaire owners acted like this.

    brewers, wsox, cards, and twins have all promised full pay for employees through june+ (and maybe longer when revisited)


  • crunch 4 days 3 hours ago (view)

    the "slow opening" seems to be starting up this weekend and into next week for a variety of clubs...whether it's the ballpark or training facitlies.  most all of the player access seems to be limited to those on the 40-man and nothing mandatory.

    nothing for the cubs yet (that i've heard about).  chicago is still a bit "hot" but AZ is open for sports...


  • crunch 1 week 7 hours ago (view)

    i can't speak for this or all of the US, but my state govt level safety committee reports kinda shape up like this...and this aggregated view stated below is my own...

    we're still technically short for how all pieces of the testing scheme interact with each other on whole, but it's catching up and should be rolling smoothly for a task like this (seems to be a dedicated lab for all MLB) by the time the season is proposed to start.


  • Hagsag 1 week 15 hours ago (view)

    They plan on testing 10.000 per week? I thought we were short of tests. 


  • crunch 1 week 1 day ago (view)

    i would be surprised to see this go start-to-finish without some kind of stupid drama.  it's not that covid is gonna kill a gazillion people while they bleed from their eyes or's that it's so easy to pass it others.  if you find one guy positive, chances are pretty high he's taking down a handful of others with him even if they're all good to go in a couple weeks and feel fine during that downtime.


  • Craig A. 1 week 1 day ago (view)

    This is going to be full of surprises. Young players who don't feel that bad may be angry that they can't  play.  A team may loose several players at once. They'll need a taxi squad that doesn't practice with the main team. Even the best plan can't prepare teams for every possibility. 


  • crunch 1 week 1 day ago (view)

    "Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that MLB plans to process upward of 10,000 COVID-19 tests per week, according to a draft of the league's health-and-safety manual.


  • crunch 1 week 2 days ago (view)

    some audio from him describing his symptoms...