The Rundown: Arbitration Numbers Filed Today, Báez Incomparable, Astros Personnel Should Expect Long Suspensions for Stealing Signs

Arbitration figures are due today and the expected raises for the Cubs’ seven eligible players should exceed $40 million. The biggest chunk of that is tied to Kris Bryant, who could see a raise of $6 million or more above last season’s $12.9 million salary. Javier Báez should expect a decent raise as he enters his second arb year, and, though the Cubs have indicated they’d like to work out an extension agreement with their shortstop, keeping it to one year limits their financial burden

Other eligible players include Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr., and Kyle Ryan. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have only gone to arbitration with one player in eight seasons and have historically signed a few players before formally exchanging numbers. The dynamic duo has better than average chance of reaching pre-hearing deals with most of their players, including Bryant. In an article earlier this week, CI editor-in-chief Evan Altman predicted Bryant could agree to an extension that covers this year and next, his final year of arbitration before hitting free agency, for $43 million in total.

As everybody knows, Bryant has been mentioned often as a trade candidate this winter pending a decision on his grievance. It’s possible that news will break one way or another regarding the third baseman before next Friday’s Cubs Convention kickoff. While Bryant has expressed a strong interest to stay with the Cubs for the duration of his career, a number of factors will challenge that desire. At the top of that list is the contracts handed out to Anthony Rendon and Nolan Arenado this year and last, Epstein’s relationship with Scott Boras, and of course the team’s current payroll situation.

If I had to call it, I’d say Epstein and all of his arb-eligible players will agree to terms before hearings start February 3 in Arizona.

Cubs News & Notes

Friday Stove

The Cardinals and Rays made a big trade yesterday, with St. Louis acquiring top pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore from Tampa Bay for outfielders José Martínez and Randy Arozarena. The Cardinals remain in conversation with outfielder Marcell Ozuna about a potential reunion. Liberatore is a top-50 prospect in baseball and one of the more promising left-handed starters.

Ozuna indicated yesterday that his choices are down to two teams, with the other team being the Rangers. The outfielder would prefer to stay with St. Louis if the money is right.

Josh Donaldson is really mucking up the offseason as he continues to weigh contract offers. I have no inside information, but it’s starting to feel like this is going to end poorly for the third baseman, who is reportedly holding out for four years and $110 million.

The Rays also traded pitcher Austin Pruitt to the Astros for righty Peyton Battenfield and minor league outfielder Cal Stevenson. Pruitt will compete for the fifth starter role with Houston. Stevenson has a career .433 OBP in two minor league seasons across Rookie and Advanced-A ball, though he will 24 this season.

A poll of major league executives indicates that Dodgers second baseman Gavin Lux will be the top rookie in baseball this season. I’d probably pick Luis Robert of the White Sox.

For the third consecutive season, the Mets have extended a spring training invitation to Tim Tebow. The 32-year outfielder is one of eight non-roster invitees the Mets unveiled on Thursday. Tebow has a career .223 minor league batting average and hit .163 last season playing for Syracuse (AAA) in the International League.

According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, discipline against the Houston Astros for using technology to steal signs is likely to be announced in the next two weeks. Those in the crosshairs expect it to be harsh, with long suspensions likely.

Apropos of Nothing

We all could use a levity in this boring yet angst-ridden offseason, am I right? Here’s a fun exercise that’s a lot tougher than you think, one in which I participated on Twitter yesterday afternoon: In your opinion, what were the five coolest songs of the 1980’s?  Here are my answers, and I’d love to hear yours in the comments section:

  1. The Politics of Dancing by Re-Flex
  2. Can’t Get There From Here by R.E.M.
  3. Life’s What You Make It by Talk Talk
  4. Home of the Brave by The Nails
  5. Beats So Lonely by Charlie Sexton

Not Just Another Girl by Ivan Neville would probably be my honorable mention.

Extra Innings

This is just too adorable not to mention.

They Said It

  • “We had the lowest-rated panel last year, so they cut us. We just thought we are boring people. I think I’m the most accessible owner in sports. People ascribe some agenda to it, but people want more time with players and coaches.” – Tom Ricketts, ahead of last year’s Cubs Convention

Friday Walk Up Song

Parted Ways by The Heartless Bastards. This raging indie hit from 2013 is number five on my top 10 songs of the just-ended decade. I love Erika Wennerstrom’s vocals. Fans of Lucinda Williams should dig on this effort.

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