What to know: Cubs 2020 offseason FAQ

November 2nd, 2020

CHICAGO -- The Cubs placed a lot of trust in the core in the previous two offseasons. The team trusted that track record and talent would power the Major League club, while also making changes to the organizational infrastructure with development in mind.

There were individual success stories along the way, but the relative status quo at the MLB level did not result in October success. That has created a situation where this offseason is now critical not only for contending in 2021, but in helping the Cubs build a bridge to the next championship-caliber roster.

"Especially offensively, we have to be really open to going back to the drawing board, in embracing some change," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in his season-end discussion with reporters.

"There are players on our roster who are part of the solution offensively, who are going to be part of the next really productive Cubs offense, including in October. And there are players from outside the organization who are, too. So we have to we have to figure that out."

With that in mind, here is a FAQ-style look at the Cubs' roster as the offseason begins:

Who are the Cubs' free agents?
LHP , RHP , INF , OF , RHP , 2B , LHP , OF , C and LHP will all be hitting the free-agent market.

Will any free agents be in line for a one-year qualifying offer?
None of the Cubs' free agents seem to fit the bill on this one. Chatwood or Quintana could have set themselves up as candidates with strong 2020 showings, but both dealt with injuries and logged minimal innings for the Cubs. The unknown economic landscape creates another obvious hurdle in this area.

Which players had contract options for 2021?
Lester had a $25 million team option or a $10 million buyout for the '21 season. had a $16.5 million team option or a $2 million buyout. Descalso had a $3.5 million team option or a $1 million buyout.

How did the Cubs handle the options?
Rizzo's contract option seemed like a no-brainer and was predictably picked up. The bigger question might be whether the Cubs explore an extension with the veteran first baseman. Lester's option was declined, as expected, but the Cubs have not ruled out trying to keep the lefty in the fold on a different deal. Descalso missed all of '20 while on the injured list and posted a 42 wRC+ in an injury-marred '19. The Cubs paid the buyout on his option.

Who will be eligible for arbitration?
The Cubs' arbitration class this winter projects to include OF , SS , LHP , 3B , C , C , OF , 1B/DH , RHP , LHP , OF , RHP , RHP

Are there any non-tender candidates? When is that decision made?
Almora's subpar season, which ended with him spending the final month at the alternate training site, makes him a non-tender candidate this offseason. Martínez went 0-for-21 for the Cubs after being acquired by trade, so the team will be weighing his track record against performance and potential cost in making a decision on him for '21. Brothers is the top non-tender candidate among the arms, but more could be at risk depending on the Cubs' payroll picture.

Barring any changes to the offseason schedule, teams must decide on Dec. 2 whether to tender a contract to any unsigned players on the 40-man roster. Arbitration-eligible players still in the fold will then exchange proposed salary figures at a later date. If necessary, arbitration hearings typically take place in late January or early February.

Where does the Cubs' 2021 player payroll currently stand?
Their 2021 roster has six contracts locked into place: RHP ($22 million), OF ($21 million), RHP ($16 million), RHP ($14 million), INF ($1.01 million) and Rizzo ($16.5 million). Hendricks' salary could also increase up to $3 million if he places in the top 10 in National League Cy Young Award voting, too.

The quartet of Báez, Bryant, Contreras and Schwarber could earn in excess of $50 million combined via arbitration in 2021, and then there is the rest of that arb group, pre-arb players under team control and other costs. The payroll would project to north of $170 million before any additions (or subtractions), and the payroll ceiling for next year is a big unknown given the current financial climate.

Here is what Epstein said about the payroll situation in his recent chat with reporters: "The only thing I can acknowledge is that we're in a period of great uncertainty. That's industry wide."

When is the Rule 5 Draft, and are there any prospects of note in need of protection?
The Rule 5 Draft is scheduled for Dec. 10 this year and the deadline for adding players to the 40-man roster to protect them from eligibility falls on Nov. 20. Right-hander Cory Abbott (No. 12 on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Cubs Prospects) and infielder Christopher Morel (No. 11) would seemingly top the list of prospects primed to be rostered.

What will the Cubs' priorities be this offseason in terms of acquisitions?
Atop the list this offseason will be examining the offensive production from the past few seasons and seeing what course of action should be taken for 2021. Trying to move the offensive needle in the direction of improved contact has been a goal dating back to last winter. On the pitching side, the Cubs will need a Major League starter and rotation depth. Chicago has had success with finding low-risk, high-reward depth arms for the bullpen in recent offseasons, and that will surely continue to be on the team's to-do list. Complementary bench pieces will be on the Cubs' radar again, too.

How will Chicago go about addressing its needs?
As the roster is currently constructed, it is hard to envision the Cubs being a major player at the top of the free-agent market. It is more realistic to think that Chicago's front office will be scouring the trade landscape, especially when it comes to seeing what offers might surface for members of the Cubs' core group. Trades are also a way for the Cubs to search for cost-effective players with multiple years of control.