CHICAGO — The Cubs created more room for upcoming offseason additions on Friday, making a series of decisions ahead of the deadline to tender contracts to unsigned players on the 40-man roster.
The remaining arbitration-eligible players for the Cubs — a group led by All-Star outfielder Ian Happ and shortstop Nico Hoerner — were tendered contracts. Here is a breakdown of the Cubs’ decisions on Friday.
Arbitration-eligible players tendered contracts
Pill: He’s now in his final year of arbitration eligibility and is an extension candidate following his best all-around performance in 2022. Happ was a first-time All-Star this season and also picked up his first Gold Glove Award for his play in left field .
The 28-year-old Happ set career highs in average (.271), doubles (42), RBIs (72), hits (155), runs scored (72), extra-base hits (61) and games played (158 ) while earing $6.85 million. The switch-hitter had a .782 OPS overall with relatively even splits against lefties (.788 OPS) and righties (.779 OPS).
Hoerner: The shortstop is entering his arbitration years for the first time, but the Cubs might also explore locking him in on a multi-year extension. Last season, Hoerner hit .281/.327/.410 with a 107 OPS+, 20 steals and 37 extra-base hits in 135 games, while posting some of MLB’s best contact rates, especially on pitches in the zone (93.9 percent).
The Cubs are in the market for a shortstop this offseason, given Hoerner’s ability and willingness to move to second base. That is why Chicago has been heavily linked to the big free-agent shortstop class (Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson) in Hot Stove rumors. In 2022, Hoerner played elite defense at shortstop (13 outs above average ranked second in the Majors at the position), but sliding Hoerner to second could help the Cubs adjust to the coming shift rules.
2B Nick Madrigal: Acquired from the White Sox as part of the Craig Kimbrel trade at the 2021 Trade Deadline, Madrigal was limited to 59 games last season due to a variety of health setbacks. Overall, he hit .249 (.588 OPS) after batting .317 (.764 OPS) in the ’20-21 combined. Madrigal, 25, maintained elite contact rates last season, but his strikeout rate climbed to 11.8% from 7.9% in ’21. He is eligible for arbitration for the first time.
RHP Cody Heuer: The 26-year-old reliever is still working back from Tommy John surgery performed last spring on his right elbow. The Cubs are expecting Heuer’s comeback to linger into 2023. The righty posted a 3.56 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 32 walks in 91 innings (86 games) between the Cubs and White Sox in ’20-21 combined. He was acquired alongside Madrigal in the Kimbrel trade, and he is eligible for arbitration for the first time.
Wick: The 30-year-old Wick turned in a career-high 64 innings last season, but with mixed results. The late-inning reliever posted a 4.22 ERA with 22 games finished and nine saves, racking up a career-best 69 strikeouts against 29 walks. Wick spun a 2.86 ERA over his final 29 appearances, but he struggled to limit the damage against left-handed batters (.914 OPS) throughout the season.
Sampson: An unsung hero for the Cubs’ pitching staff over the past two seasons, Sampson posted a 3.03 ERA in 31 games (24 starts). Last season, the 31-year-old righty had a 3.11 ERA in 104 1/3 innings, stepping up as the rotation dealt with injuries and other issues. Down the stretch, Sampson logged a 1.71 ERA in his final eight appearances. He gives the Cubs depth as a starter and a multi-inning reliever.
Ortega: The 31-year-old Ortega hit .241/.331/.358 in 118 games last season, following a strong showing with the Cubs in the previous campaign (.291/.360/.463 in 103 games). Ortega was best utilized as a platoon option against right-handed pitching, while offering depth for all three outfield spots. He was eligible for arbitration for the first time.
Marquez: Once touted as a Top 100 prospect, the 23-year-old lefty has missed two seasons due to a variety of health setbacks. Last season, Marquez underwent a left shoulder procedure in June that ended any hopes of pitching in 2022. He made his MLB debut on Sept. 27, 2020, but that marks his only game action since the ’19 season.
Vizcaino: The 25-year-old righty spent the entirety of the 2022 season on MLB’s restricted list after failing to report to Spring Training for the Cubs. The North Siders acquired Vizcaíno, along with outfielder Kevin Alcanatara (MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 Cubs prospect and No. 86 on the Top 100 list), in the deal that sent Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees at the ’21 Deadline. Vizcaíno has not pitched since ’21.