The Cubs announced Tuesday that they have chosen to tender contracts to Ian Happ and Willson Contreras, the only two arbitration-eligible members of the 40-man roster. That’s right in line with expectations from the end of the season, both in terms of those two being tendered and several other would-be arb-eligible players already being jettisoned.
Adam Morgan was the only other real possibility since his projected $1.3 million salary was more than reasonable, but the Cubs gave him an early start on free agency back in early November. Happ is projected to earn $6.5 million, which may anger some folks who don’t buy that his late-season adjustments can carry forward. Contreras is pegged at $8.7 million for his final year of club control.
How the Cubs handle his contract situation has been a big focus of late, first with the report that they haven’t had extension discussions and then with the acquisition of Yan Gomes. While Contreras certainly could be moved just like the rest of the core, it’s hard to imagine either getting proper value or being able to adequately replace his performance.
Back to Happ and those adjustments for a moment, it’s important to put his season in proper context by considering the eye injury he suffered last season. Whether physical, psychological, or both, fouling a ball off of his face may have had lingering effects. Once he tweaked his approach to start elevating offspeed stuff more, he took off.
Even with a .226 average, he still ended up with a 103 wRC+ and 1.3 fWAR after that horrendous start. Through his first 293 plate appearances, Happ was batting .175 with a 67 wRC+ and was worth -0.7 fWAR. Over the subsequent 242 PAs, however, he hit .285 with a 146 wRC+ and 2.0 fWAR. That’s well worth the projected salary above.
In addition to Happ and Contreras, the Cubs tendered deals to 28 other players not yet eligible for arbitration. They non-tendered right-handed pitcher Jason Adam and outfielder Michael Hermosillo, neither of whom were eligible for arbitration.
The 40-man roster now stands at 35 players.