CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs non-tendered 2016 World Series hero Kyle Schwarber on Wednesday, making him a free agent after six seasons with the team, while tendering a contract to 2016 National League MVP Kris Bryant as well as shortstop Javier Baez and catcher Willson Contreras.
“He wasn’t surprised,” new Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said of Schwarber in a video call with reporters Wednesday night. “He was disappointed. Any competitor would be.”
Schwarber, 27, was in his final year of arbitration, but the team let him go rather than pay him around $8 million-$9 million next season. The Cubs have not ruled out bringing him back on a lesser deal, though.
“We’ll definitely keep the door open,” Hoyer said. “We’ll continue to talk about ways to bring him back. … We had a good conversation. He’s a Cubs legend. No question about that.”
Schwarber hit .230 with 121 home runs in 551 regular-season games, but he’ll be remembered for his playoff performances, during which he compiled a .981 OPS in 24 games.
He hit .412 in five games as the Cubs’ designated hitter in the 2016 World Series, which Chicago won in seven games over the Cleveland Indians. After missing all but two games of the 2016 regular season — and the ensuing playoff rounds — because of a knee injury, Schwarber came back to star in the World Series.
Manager Joe Maddon made him the Cubs’ leadoff hitter the following year, after Dexter Fowler left via free agency. Schwarber flopped in that role, hitting .190 with a .312 on-base percentage before spending time in the minors.
He rebounded in 2018 and 2019, hitting 64 home runs, but his shortened 2020 season didn’t go well. Schwarber hit just .188 with 11 home runs in 59 games.
The Cubs also said goodbye to another 2016 mainstay, Albert Almora Jr., who was demoted to the alternate site in 2020. And though there is speculation Bryant could be moved before next season, he was tendered a contract for 2021 that should pay him close to $20 million.
In addition to Baez and Contreras, the Cubs also tendered contracts to catcher Victor Caratini and outfielder Ian Happ. Those players, along with Bryant, will either negotiate a one-year or longer-term deals, or go to an arbitration hearing in February to determine their salaries.
Without fans in attendance at Wrigley Field, the Cubs said they lost between $125 million and $140 million in 2020. Front-office and baseball operations staff were let go in a series of cost-cutting moves, and a reduction in payroll was on the agenda for the team this offseason — along with an offensive makeover. The core group of players who won the World Series in 2016 had collectively stalled at the plate.
Schwarber’s release is the first major sign of both the payroll and personnel turnover. And it is the first major decision under Hoyer’s watch, after Theo Epstein stepped down with a year left on his deal.
Schwarber was the Cubs’ first-round pick, fourth overall, in the 2014 draft after attending Indiana University.
Alex Cora, knowing just ‘how embarrassing’ suspensions can be, speaks to Boston Red Sox pitching staff about rule changes
Alex Cora knows a thing or two about the public embarrassment that comes alongside a suspension in connection to a baseball cheating scandal, and the Boston Red Sox manager believes that the public shame should be enough in changing the behavior of players after Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday that pitchers will be ejected and suspended for 10 games for using illegal foreign substances on the mound.
Cora addressed the rule changes with the Red Sox staff before their game against the Braves on Tuesday.
“I come from a suspension and I know how embarrassing that is and how tough that is not only on you as a person, but your family and your friends and the people that you love,” Cora said. “Ten games a year, two years, three years, it doesn’t matter. Being suspended is hell and you don’t want to go through that. I was very open to [the team] and hopefully they understand.”
In April of 2020, MLB announced that Cora would “be suspended through the conclusion of the 2020 postseason for his conduct as bench coach for the Houston Astros in 2017.”
This week, alongside every big league manager, Cora participated in a meeting led by MLB senior video president for on-field operations Mike Hill and league consultant Theo Epstein regarding the rule changes.
“This is one of those topics that is right now is loud,” Cora said. “Everyone is talking about it but hopefully after a week or two week, it’s enforced and we talk only about the game, forget about the sticky stuff or this and that. Talk about teams and what they are doing and their stories and something in the past and we can keep moving forward.”
Cora hopes that the rule changes will change the quality of the on-field product and allow more action to take place on the field.
“If this is as big as people see it and the information provided shows, maybe the stuff is going to come down a little bit. Throwing 99 and let it rip all of the time, it’s not going to play and you have to actually pitch instead of throw,” Cora said. “If that’s the case, maybe it’s a better quality of baseball. Pitchers are going to throw strikes and guys are going to put the ball in play and defense has to make plays, we’ll see how it goes. Stuff wise, it might come down a little bit but at the same time, athletic wise, we are at another level.
“These guys on the mound are bigger, stronger, more explosive so let’s see how it plays out, but stuff wise, it’s going to come down a little bit.”
Chicago White Sox’s Nick Madrigal out for rest of season after surgery on hamstring
He is expected to be ready for spring training next year, the team said.
“To have the surgery, it clears away some of the uncertainty. I think this way it’s a way to put it behind him and start fresh,” manager Tony La Russa said.
“It takes the decision out of him and he can take his time and make sure he’s 100%.”
Madrigal was helped off the field after he tried to beat out a grounder in the seventh inning of a 6-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on June 9. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft had been rounding into form, batting .365 (27-for-74) with two homers and 10 RBIs in his past 20 games.
Madrigal is one of three key position players sidelined for the first-place White Sox. Left fielder Eloy Jimenez ruptured his left pectoral tendon during spring training, and center fielder Luis Robert tore his right hip flexor in May.
Madrigal, 24, finishes the season with a .305 batting average, 10 doubles, four triples, two home runs and 21 RBIs.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Washington Nationals put Max Scherzer on IL with groin injury
The team announced the move Tuesday, saying it was retroactive to Sunday.
Scherzer “tweaked” his groin in the first inning during his start on Saturday. He warmed up in the outfield Monday before beginning a bullpen session, which was expected to be 31 pitches. Scherzer threw 10 pitches, then stopped, saying the groin issue prevented him from driving through his pitches.
Scherzer was scheduled to pitch Wednesday in the finale of a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Nationals considered pushing his start back as opposed to placing the three-time Cy Young winner on the injured list, but opted for the 10-day stint away from the field.
“For me, it was after going through the process, I just want to be more cautious than not,” Nationals manager Davey Martinez said. “This is an injury right now that’s getting better. We want it to completely get better.”
Scherzer (5-4, 2.21 ERA) should miss one start. He’s been adamant the injury is minor, even hesitating to call it an injury.
Veteran reliever Justin Miller was called up from Triple-A Rochester to take Scherzer’s spot. RHP Rogelio Armenteros was designated for assignment to free a 40-man roster spot for Miller.
Scherzer joins Stephen Strasburg (neck) on the Nationals’ injured list. Strasburg has made just five starts this season. There is no timeline for his return. Right-handers Will Harris and Daniel Hudson and left-hander Luis Avilan are also on the injured list.
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