The Chicago Cubs non-tendered three injured relief pitchers, tendered contracts to six players who were key to 2023’s 83-win campaign and came to terms on a one-year deal with Patrick Wisdom on Friday evening. The terms of Wisdom’s contract weren’t disclosed.
Wisdom hit just .205 on the season, but the low batting average belies his true value. Wisdom is a slugger (.295 ISO) who struggles to make contact (36.8 percent strikeout rate). But when he connects, he hits it as hard as anyone in the game and his 19.2 percent barrel rate would be among the best in baseball. For context, Shohei Ohtani led all qualified batters with a 19.3 percent barrel rate.
While Wisdom’s defense at third suffered greatly last season, he showed that when used in the right matchups he could be a real offensive weapon. When healthy and used in a limited role, Wisdom thrived in the second half when he posted a 147 wRC+. With new manager Craig Counsell known for maximizing every bit of his roster, Wisdom could prove useful again, especially for a team that desperately needs power.
The Cubs non-tendered right-handed relief pitchers Codi Heuer and Ethan Roberts as well as lefty Brandon Hughes. Heuer was acquired with Nick Madrigal (who was tendered a contract Friday) from the Chicago White Sox at the 2021 trade deadline for reliever Craig Kimbrel.
The #Cubs today made the following moves in conjunction with today’s tender/non-tender deadline.
The 40-man roster now stands at 37. pic.twitter.com/a3odXbrrJU
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) November 18, 2023
Heuer had a 3.14 ERA in 28 2/3 innings with the Cubs after the trade deadline and was expected to be a big contributor out of the bullpen in the future. But after undergoing Tommy John surgery the following winter, he missed the 2022 season. The hope was he could impact the Cubs in the second half of 2023, but he suffered a setback during a rehab outing and underwent surgery for a fractured right elbow.
Hughes struggled to stay healthy in 2023 as his surgically repaired left knee nagged him all summer. He eventually underwent a procedure to clean up the knee in late June. It was a more minor process than originally expected and he was pitching in minor-league games by the end of the year. Roberts spent 2023 recovering from Tommy John surgery and should return to action during the 2024 season. All three could return on minor-league deals.
Along with Madrigal, the Cubs also tendered contracts to right-handed relievers Adbert Alzolay, Julian Merryweather and Mark Leither Jr., outfielder Mike Tauchman and lefty starter Justin Steele. Steele emerged as the ace the staff needed and finished fifth in Cy Young Award voting.
While the bullpen faltered down the stretch, Alzolay earned the closer’s job, Merryweather stayed healthy and delivered on the promise he’d shown of being a dominant setup man, and Leiter was a trusted reverse-split righty reliever.
When Cody Bellinger missed time with a knee injury, Tauchman got the call in center and eventually forced his way into the everyday lineup even after Bellinger returned. He became a much-needed on-base threat at the top of the lineup for an offense that scored the sixth most runs in baseball.
The Cubs avoided any major surprises on the day as they dropped their 40-man count to 37. While other teams made some small trades before the deadline, the Cubs remained quiet. But in an offseason where expectations were immediately elevated with the hire of Counsell, that likely won’t be the norm. But with Thanksgiving around the corner, the activity is likely to pick up soon and the Cubs should be among one of the more talked about teams.
(Photo of Patrick Wisdom: Matt Marton / USA Today)