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Cubs come to term with six players, avoiding arbitration

2 months agoAndy Martinez

The Cubs came to contract terms with six players to avoid arbitration, highlighted by ace Justin Steele and closer Adbert Alzolay.

Steele, Alzolay, Mike Tauchman, Nick Madrigal, Mark Leiter Jr. and Julian Merryweather were all signed to 1-year deals. Thursday was the deadline to exchange figures before heading to an arbitration hearing. Terms of contracts were not released. 

Steele agreed to a $4 million contract, per reports. He finished 4th in National League Cy Young voting last season and emerged as a homegrown ace for the Cubs, going 16-5 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. It’s Steele’s first year through the arbitration system. He’s under team control through the 2027 season. 

The Cubs and Alzolay agreed to a $2.11 million contract, per reports. Alzolay amassed 22 saves last season as he developed into the team’s closer. He posted an impressive 2.67 ERA across 58 games. It’s his first time through the arbitration system, too, and he is under club control through 2026. 

Tauchman ($1.95 million, per reports) was a non-roster invitee that began the season in Triple-A for the Cubs. When he joined the team in May, he quickly became a catalyst for the team’s offense and when Cody Bellinger returned, the Cubs’ best offensive lineup featured Tauchman in center and Bellinger at first base. He could be the Cubs’ Opening Day center fielder, if the team doesn’t bring back Bellinger and opts to keep top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong in Triple-A to develop more. 

Madrigal ($1.81 million, per reports) was the Cubs Opening Day third baseman and hit .263 but struggled to stay healthy, ending the season on the IL with a right hamstring strain. He manned the hot corner admirably in 2023, but has yet to play over 100 games in a season in his 4-year career. 

Leiter Jr. ($1.5 million, per reports) and Merryweather ($1.175 million) were crucial members of the Cubs relief corps in 2023. Leiter was designated for assignment last winter, hit the open market and returned to the Cubs on a minor league deal with an invite to major-league camp. The righty turned into one of David Ross’ most trusted arms, posting a 3.50 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 77 strikeouts in 64.1 IP. He was the Cubs’ best option against left-handed hitters for most of the season. 

Merryweather was claimed off waivers from Toronto last year. After some early struggles, he turned into a key setup man to bridge the gap to Alzolay. The righty had 98 strikeouts in 72 innings across 69 games. Both Merryweather and Leiter should form key pieces to Craig Counsell’s bullpen in 2024, along with Alzolay and new reliever Yency Almonte.

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