In Advance of the Non-Tender Deadline

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In random Cubs staffing news, former Milwaukee Brewer Rob Deer was hired as the assistant hitting coach today.  Hurray, they’re getting the Cheese Band back together!  At first glance the batting average looks terrible but then you also look at the peripherals and realize that Deer took his fair share of walks and got on base a bunch while doing damage with the pitches he actually made contact with.  He’s like righty Carlos Pena.  We’ll see what happens with this hire, but likely won’t get to assess the results until at least spring training.  More pressing at the moment is this Friday’s non-tender deadline.  This is the day that all arbitration-eligible players must be offered arbitration, or else be non-tendered and either released or signed to a lesser contract.

As of right now, the 40-man roster is full.  Every spot is either occupied by an established regular (i.e. Starlin Castro), a player that must be protected from the Rule 5 Draft (i.e. Logan Watkins) or some random pitcher the Cubs picked up off the waiver wire and don’t know what to do with yet.  Here’s the breakdown, with the arbitration-eligible guys marked with an asterisk:

Pitchers B/T
Scott Baker R-R
Jeff Beliveau L-L
Michael Bowden R-R
Alberto Cabrera R-R
Shawn Camp R-R
Lendy Castillo S-R
Jaye Chapman R-R
Casey Coleman L-R
Gerardo Concepcion L-L
Rafael Dolis R-R
Matt Garza* R-R
Carlos Marmol R-R
Trey McNutt R-R
Zach Putnam R-R
Brooks Raley L-L
Chris Rusin L-L
James Russell* L-L
Jeff Samardzija* R-R
Arodys Vizcaino R-R
Robert Whitenack R-R
Travis Wood R-L
Catchers B/T
Welington Castillo R-R
Steve Clevenger L-R
Dioner Navarro S-R
Infielders B/T
Darwin Barney R-R
Starlin Castro R-R
Junior Lake R-R
Anthony Rizzo L-L
Ian Stewart* L-R
Luis Valbuena* L-R
Christian Villanueva R-R
Josh Vitters R-R
Logan Watkins L-R
Outfielders B/T
Tony Campana L-L
David DeJesus L-L
Brett Jackson L-R
Dave Sappelt R-R
Jorge Soler R-R
Alfonso Soriano R-R
Matt Szczur R-R

With the departure of guys like Chris Volstad and Manuel Corpas, the Cubs only have five players that are up for arbitration.  Three pitchers (Garza, Samardzija, Russell) and two infielders (Valbuena and Stewart) will need to be decided on within this next week.  Which players will be re-upped?  Who’s getting a pink slip?  Let’s do each one case-by-case.

Matt Garza

Garza is an interesting case.  He missed the last couple months of the 2012 season with arm issues (stress reaction in the pitching elbow) but has since been cleared after a routine scan and should be ready for spring training.  MLBTR projects that due to his previous year’s salary, production and the injury issue, he should get around $10MM in his final year of arbitration.  The Cubs are very unlikely to get a fair haul for Garza in a preseason trade, so they will have to hope that he produces such that they either give him an extension or trade him for whatever they can get at this point.  Garza is an obvious tender and should receive that projected $10MM figure.

James Russell

Russell was a reliable reliever over the past couple seasons and is projected to pull in $900K in his first year of arbitration eligibility.  That’s close to what Sean Marshall got in his first arb year and seems fair given that he’s not the closer.  This is also an obvious tender unless they bundle Russell up in some random trade for Giancarlo Stanton.  Lulz.

Jeff Samardzija

Jeff is arbitration eligible for the first time but has already earned quite a bit of money due to the contract he signed when first drafted to convince him not to play wide receiver for the Bears.  He had a solid season in 2012 and is projected to earn just shy of $3MM in arb year one.  Because the Cubs need healthy arms in the rotation even on a sucky team, and they can keep Samardzija affordably, and it would be unwise to hand him a contract extension right away, this too is an obvious tender.  Let’s see if he can duplicate or improve on last season’s success, then give him even more money instead of giving him the big kahuna burger now.

Luis Valbuena

Luis was a capable defender and had some timely hits, but even though he looked like an All-Star for the Cubs (hahaha), he actually kind of sucked.  He’s projected for $900K in his first year of arbitration eligibility.  If he’s the starting third baseman then I guess that’s fine.  But if he’s the backup infielder then I don’t see why they would pay him that much.  Ultimately it’s less than a million dollars and the Ricketts family could sit on their couch and squeeze out that much in change.  File this under either/or.

Ian Stewart

This is going to be a tough one and will likely frustrate many Cubs fans.  Ian Stewart greatly underperformed as a Cub before he was shut down for the season.  The fact that he is still on the 40-man roster and wasn’t designated for assignment suggests that the Cubs want to see whether his wrist fully healed and whether he can improve upon 2012 (granted that it shouldn’t be that hard since 2012 really sucked).  Stewart is a Super Two and is eligible for the third time, projected to earn $2.3MM, a slight raise from what he was paid in 2012.  That’s partially due to suckitude, injury, and the fact that pay cuts don’t often happen in arbitration.  I can’t find the exact Tweet right now (Ian changed his Twitter handle at some point and I don’t feel like sifting through the entire backlog) but I’ve heard that he’s willing to re-sign for as little as $1.5MM.  He has power potential and is still on the right side of 30, with another year of control after 2013.  I consider him to be the most likely candidate to be the starting 3B for the 2013 Cubs (bummer, I know).  What isn’t as clear is whether the Cubs want to just pay him the projected amount to avoid arbitration, or non-tender him and pay less but with the risk that he goes off somewhere else and they are left with nothing.  Nothing is still slightly worse than 2012 Ian Stewart production.  I think, however, that all of this has been taken into account and Ian Stewart will most likely be the only non-tender, yet will re-sign for under $2MM to prove that he can still produce.

Now, we wait for Friday.

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