Not a big surprise, but Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Ryan Dempster is expected to exercise his $14 million player option for next season.
Dempster, 34, is in the final guaranteed year of a four-year, $52 million contract. He has proved to be a good value for Chicago, despite his superficially mediocre 4.60 ERA over 27 starts this season. His strikeout percentage is actually right on par with where he was last season while his walk percentage is improved.
It’s possible that the Cubs could attempt to renegotiate Dempster’s option as part of a multi-year contract, though that decision will likely fall on the next general manager.
‘‘I think that’s something that I’ll have to look at at the end of the year, and hopefully something that they’re interested in happening here,’’ he said. ‘‘The main thing for me to do is focus on [tonight’s] game.’’
Of course, one of the more interesting decisions for the Cubs this offseason will be whether to exercise Aramis Ramirez’s $16 million option for 2012 or buy him out for $2 million. The 33-year-old is batting .311 with 24 home runs and an .886 OPS this season, so with no heir apparent at third base, there’s a strong argument to keep him around.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.