CHICAGO — The Cubs avoided arbitration with three of their biggest stars, agreeing to one-year deals with third baseman Kris Bryant, shortstop Javier Baez and catcher Willson Contreras on Friday.
Bryant, who struggled through injuries in his worst season, is set to earn $19.5 million. Baez is due $11.65 million and Contreras $6.65 million.
The Cubs also agreed to an $8,63 million deal for next season with pitcher Zach Davies, acquired in the trade that sent NL Cy Young Award runner-up Yu Darvish to San Diego.
The Cubs were unable to reach a deal with outfielder Ian Happ and are headed to arbitration for just the third time since 1993. They beat infielder Ryan Theriot in 2010 and pitcher Justin Grimm in 2018.
Chicago also made a move for the future, agreeing to a minor league contract with promising international prospect Cristian Hernandez, a person familiar with the situation said. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal with the 17-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic has not been announced. MLB.com first reported the move.
The Cubs returned to the playoffs after missing out in 2019, only to score just one run while getting swept by Miami in their wild-card series. Theo Epstein stepped down as president of baseball operations and general manager Jed Hoyer got promoted to replace him. The Cubs then traded Darvish to San Diego for Davies and young prospects, ushering in a rebuilding phase.
With core players such as Baez and Bryant struggling, the Cubs ranked among the worst in the majors with a .220 batting average.
Baez, the 2018 NL MVP runner-up and two-time All-Star struggled in a big way at the plate last season. His averaged dropped 78 points to .203, and he hit just eight homers with 24 RBIs. Baez earned $3,703,704 prorated from a $10 million salary.
Bryant, the 2016 NL MVP, batted .206 – by far his career low. He had just four homers and 11 RBIs. Two of those home runs were hit in the final two games against the crosstown White Sox. Bryant earned a prorated $6,888,889 portion of an $18.6 million salary.
Contreras came on strong down the stretch at the plate to finish with a .243 average, seven homers and 26 RBIs. The two-time All-Star threw out nine runner stealing and drew praise for his improved pitch framing. Contreras earned $1,666,667 prorated from a $4.5 million salary.
Davies went 7-4 with a 2.73 ERA in 12 starts for San Diego last season. The 27-year-old right-hander was acquired by the Cubs along with a package of young prospects for Darvish and catcher Victor Caratini last month. Davies earned a prorated $1,944,444 portion of a $5,25 million salary.
Happ led the Cubs with 12 homers and was second on the team with 28 RBIs. He finished with a .258 average after slumping in September. He earned $231,111 prorated from a $624,000 salary.