Unsigned players with more than three years of MLB experience and less than six are automatically eligible for salary arbitration. The Cubs and the player can agree on a one-year deal before Dec. 2, or the case will go to arbitration. Those not tendered offers, become free agents and can resign with the team for lower than the required arbitration figure.
Here's a look at who's eligible for arbitration, their estimated salary projections, and what the Cubs may do:
Daniel Bard, RHP, ($2 million)—The Cubs acquired Bard off waivers from the Red Sox in September and he never appeared in a game for Chicago. Bard started 2013 in AA Portland and was promoted to Boston at the end of April. He appeared in two games for the Red Sox, sent back to Portland, and then shut down in May. He returned to the mound in late August making three appearances in low A ball. The right-hander appeared in 143 games in 2010-11, throwing 147.2 innings with 150 strikeouts and a ERA of 2.62. He's a former first-round pick of the Red Sox in 2006, 28th overall. Its not a given the Cubs will bring Bard back for 2014. He's appeared in three games in the Puerto Rican League and it couldn't have gone any worse. He faced 13 hitters, hit three of them, walked nine and got a groundball out on the only ball put in play. He's thrown four wild pitches and has an ERA of 189.00
James Russell, LHP (1.7 million)—Cubs will undoubtedly tender a contract offer to Russell. The only full-time left-handed bullpen arm the Cubs have had the past four seasons. The Cubs have two more years of control of Russell, as the 27-year-old (turns 28 in January) becomes a free agent in 2016. Russell has appeared 272 games in the past four years, sporting a 3.92 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP.
Jeff Samardzija, RHP ($5 million)—While most of the baseball world is drumming up trade rumors for Samardzija, the Cubs will likely tender an offer to the "Shark" unless one of the rumors is actually true. With two more years of team control, I don't see the Cubs in any hurry to get rid of him, and Samardzija is in no hurry to sign a "team-friendly" deal like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. The right-hander has made 61 starts for Chicago the past two years (17-26 4.10 ERA, 9.1 K/9 and 8.5 H/9), spending his first four seasons pitching primarily out of the bullpen. The 28-year-old (turns 29 in January) has the pitches to be a top of the rotation starter but hasn't shown the focus or consistency in his two seasons in Chicago.
Pedro Strop, RHP ($1 million)—Acquired from the Orioles in the Scott Feldman trade at this summer's deadline, Strop is currently the odds on favorite to be the Cubs closer. The right-hander sports a four-seam fastball in the mid- to upper 90s and also throws a hard sinker. The 28-year-old appeared in 37 games for the Cubs, striking out 42 in 35 IP with a 2.83 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP.
Travis Wood, LHP ($3.5 million)—Wood will receive a one-year deal, another trade that gave the Cubs control years on a young pitcher. You could make a case that Wood was the Cubs best starter last year, going 9-12 with a 3.11 ERA in 32 starts, logging 200 innings with a team-high 24 quality starts. Cubs may also be working on an extension for the starter that was acquired in the Sean Marshall deal. Wood, 26, doesn't become a free agent until 2017.
Darwin Barney, 2B, ($2.1 million)—Will be interesting to see what the Cubs do with Barney. There's been some reports the Cubs won't tender Barney a contract and let him become a free agent. I don't see this happening. He has value and the Cubs should be willing to pay the $2.1 million price tag for 2014. Barney does remain a trade possibility for a team looking for a solid defensive second baseman. A gold glover winner in 2012, Barney struggled at the plate in 2013, hitting .208/.266/.303 in 141 games. Barney does not become free agent until 2017.
Mat Gamel, 1B, ($500,000)—Another waiver wire acquisition that never suited up for the Cubs due to an injury as Chicago grabbed Gamel when MIlwaukee tried to pass him through waivers in early October. The 28-year-old has also not seen any action this winter, although he's on the roster for Estrellas in the Dominican Winter League. Gamel has been recovering from an ACL tear in the right knee that occurred on May 1, 2012, and not played since. The Cubs should have had a pretty good idea if Gamel would be ready for the 2014 season, and with Justin Bour (AA Tennessee in 2013) the only other option as a backup first baseman, the Cubs will likely keep Gamel depending on his comeback, especially for the price.
Donnie Murphy, IF ($1 million)—With third baseman Mike Olt eyeing the opening day lineup, and the possibility of Luis Valbuena backing up second and third, Murphy may be the odd man out. The Cubs have also signed SS Chris Valaika and two other minor league middle infielders. The 30-year-old didn't do anything not get an offer from the Cubs, hitting .255/.319/.530 with 11 HR in only 163 plate appearances after getting called up from Iowa at the start of August.
Luis Valbuena, 2B ($1.5 million)—Valbuena will be back for the Cubs in 2014, and depending on what happens to Barney, may start opening day at second base. He's currently starting at second base for Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League, hitting .255/.339/.418 in 14 games. Valbuena, claimed off waivers in 2012, has spent the past two years at third base on the North Side, hitting .218/.322/.361 in 198 games.
Nate Schierholtz, RF ($4.4 million)—Cubs have already penciled Schierholtz's name in the opening day lineup in right field. The 29-year-old (he'll turn 30 in February) is coming off his best season, hitting .251/.301/.470 with career highs in homers (21) and RBI (68). A free agent next season, the Cubs may trade Schierholtz before the trade deadline in July.