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Winter of change continues as Cubs opt not to tender Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr. contracts for 2021

3 years agoTony Andracki

The winter of transition continues for the Cubs.

The week after Jed Hoyer officially stepped in as the organization’s new president of baseball operations, he made his first round of tough choices at the Major League Baseball tender deadline.

Hoyer and the Cubs opted not to tender Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr. contracts for 2021, likely saying goodbye to a pair of World Series heroes. Both players are now free agents and can sign with any team in the league, though there’s still the potential of a Chicago reunion.

“That was a hard conversation I had with Kyle,” Hoyer said. “I think we’re definitely going to keep the door open. We have and we’ll continue to talk to [his agent] about ways to bring him back and so I wanted to express that to him, but wanted to express that if it doesn’t work out — affection, gratitude for all he’s done.

“I don’t think the door’s closed. We had a good conversation. He’s always going to be a Cubs legend — there’s no question about that, as he should be.”

The Cubs also made José Martínez and Ryan Tepera free agents while tendering contracts to Kris Bryant, Javy Báez, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ and Victor Caratini. The team reached agreements on 2021 contracts with pitchers Dan Winkler (1-year deal, $900,000), Kyle Ryan (1-year, split contract) and Colin Rea (1-year, $702,500).

If this is the end of Schwarber’s time in Chicago, he will always be remembered for his amazing comeback from a devastating knee injury to rattle off a slew of clutch hits for the Cubs in the 2016 World Series. He singled to ignite the rally in the 10th inning of Game 7 before giving way to Almora as the pinch-runner.

Almora, meanwhile, will go down as the answer to multiple trivia questions as the first draft pick of the Theo Epstein regime and the player who scored the winning run in that epic Game 7.

Schwarber mashed 121 home runs over his six seasons with the Cubs, reaching the 30-homer plateau twice. Since 2017, only Christian Yelich (110) has more homers among left fielders than Schwarber’s 105.

2021 was set to be Schwarber’s final year of arbitration and he was projected to make about $8 million, per MLB Trade Rumors. He hit .188 with a .701 OPS in 2020.

Schwarber burst onto the scene in 2015 and sparked the Cubs offense in the second half and postseason. He hit 5 homers in three playoff series that fall, setting a new Cubs record in the process.

Almora debuted in 2016 and played at least 130 games in each year from 2017-19. His offensive numbers dipped each season and in 2020, he played only 28 games with a .167 batting average and .465 OPS.

Ian Happ earned the everyday role in center field from the outset last year and by midseason, Almora was optioned to the alternate site in South Bend, where he spent the remainder of the summer.

Almora had a knack for making spectacular plays in the outfield, endearing himself to many Cubs fans in the process.

He was projected to make about $1.5 million in his first year of arbitration in 2021.

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