Friday’s non-tender deadline, paired with the deadline to set reserve lists earlier this week, set the foundation for the Cubs’ offseason.
The Cubs did not tender contracts to left-handed pitcher Brailyn Marquez, outfielder Rafael Ortega or right-handed pitcher Alexander Vizca?no before Friday’s deadline, making them free agents.
Ortega, who was arbitration-eligible for the first time, has provided a left-handed bat to the Cubs’ outfield mix the past two season. This year, he hit .241, mostly against right-handed hitters, and broke his finger in mid-September, ending his season.
Marquez and Vizca?no missed the 2022 season. Marquez, once the Cubs’ top pitching prospect, has battled injuries the last couple years and underwent season-ending surgery on his left shoulder in June. Vizca?no, who the Cubs acquired from the Yankees last year as part of the Anthony Rizzo trade, spent the season on the restricted list after failing to report in Spring Training.
The Cubs also avoided arbitration with a pair of right-handed pitchers, agreeing to terms on 2023 contracts with Adrian Sampson ($1.9 million) and Rowan Wick ($1.55 million).
The club tendered contracts to 31 players on the 40-man roster, including four who are arbitration eligible: outfielder Ian Happ, infielders Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal, and right-handed reliever Codi Heuer. The club and each player have until mid-January to agree on a salary for next year or exchange figures.
The Cubs also claimed infielder Rylan Bannon off waivers from the Braves on Friday. Bannon, a Joliet native, made his MLB debut in May. He went 2-for-14 in the majors this year, split between the Orioles and the Braves. Meanwhile, he slashed .249/.367/.421 in Triple-A.
Here’s where the roster stands, including holes to fill over the winter.
The Cubs are looking to add power to their lineup, and the infield provides the most flexibility to do so of any position group.
The team could add a more experienced bat alongside first baseman Matt Mervis, who is expected to debut next year. Nico Hoerner can play shortstop or move back to second base, putting the Cubs in the conversation to land one of the elite shortstops on the free agent market.
The Cubs have several internal third base options, including Bannon, Patrick Wisdom, Christopher Morel and Zach McKinstry. But all three can play multiple positions.
“Talking to a lot of these outfielders, left and right are taken,” manager Davis Ross said during the Cubs’ last series of the season in Cincinnati. “Pretty simple. There’s an open spot, and it’s in center field.”
The Cubs could fill the spot internally, by committee as they did last season, or look at external options.
Willson Contreras officially hit free agency when he rejected the qualifying offer from the Cubs on Tuesday. Veteran Yan Gomes was the backup last year but still played in 86 games. He slides into a more prominent role for now, but the Cubs could use more quality depth at the position.
“As far as the future of the rotation,” lefty Justin Steele told the Sun-Times at the end of the season, “if you go and add a top-of-the-line arm to what we already have, you can see something really special unfold.”
President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has listed adding to the starting rotation as an offseason priority – along with filling holes in the bullpen and adding offensive power. But he has talked around promising a “top of the rotation” arm.
The Cubs have found success rounding out the bullpen with veterans on short-term deals. They don’t have an obvious closer heading into next year. They do have a number of younger pitchers who could develop into strong back-end relievers for years to come, including Brandon Hughes, Jeremiah Estrada, Manuel Rodr?guez, Erich Uelmen, Rowan Wick and Heuer, who is expected to return from Tommy John surgery rehab partway through the season.