The Cubs have non-tendered C Koyie Hill
The Cubs had seven arbitration-eligible players this year:
Essentially, in order to keep these players, the Cubs had to tender contracts to them by the end of the day yesterday, or they would become free agents. Hill is the only player they chose to non-tender, so he’s no longer on the team.
I think the reasons for tendering the six players they did are self-explanatory for the most part, although to my mind Jeff Baker could have gone either way. His principle value to the club is that he crushes lefthanded pitching, although that skill is not really all that hard to come by. Still, he can play second base, so the combination of his versatility and his platoon advantage against lefties makes him useful enough to have around, I suppose.
DeWitt is another player who may have been near the cutoff line, although I continue to think that he’s a better option than Darwin Barney for the starting job. His biggest weakness is that, even though he’s a lefty, he doesn’t hit righthanded pitchers very well, having a pronounced reverse split over the course of his career:
DeWitt, career vs. RHP: 985 PA, .254/.318/.373, 17 HR, 151 K
DeWitt, career vs. LHP: 228 PA, .290/.373/.440, 4 HR, 41 K
This made him pretty much useless last season, with Barney starting and Baker next to him on the bench, because he’s not good enough against righties to make for an effective platoon partner with Barney and he’s not as good against lefties as Baker. Since the Cubs look like they’re bringing back all three players next year (plus the possible addition of Jeff Bianchi to the mix), there will at least be a healthy competition for playing time at second base. Hopefully the new management regime will actually open up competition for the starting spot, because Barney is probably the worst option of the four.
It’s hard to think of a reason why the Cubs should have kept Hill. He has a good reputation defensively, but he’s a terrible hitter, with a lifetime OPS+ of 50 (yes, fifty). Even though he’s still arb-eligible, he’s actually pretty old – he’ll be 33 next season – so if anything, he’s going to get worse going forward instead of better. He’s relatively expensive, making $850,000 last year, which of course won’t break the Cubs’ payroll, but still it’s more than double the league minimum for production far below replacement level. And most importantly, the Cubs have much better options already in the organization for the role of backup catcher in Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger.
In fact, to be blunt it’s hard to understand why Hill ever got as much playing time for the Cubs as he did: 795 plate appearances over parts of 5(!) seasons, in which time he put up -2.1 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) according to Baseball-Reference.com. I understand that the backup catcher spot is usually considered a defense-first role, but Hill has essentially been a waste of a roster spot whenever he’s been with the team.