Cubs’ president Theo Epstein sees opportunity with the additional wild card

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MLB made expanded playoffs official yesterday, a decision which will undoubtedly have a major impact on how general managers will approach things leading up to the trade deadline this year. We are likely to have more buyers than ever before while players on the handful of sellers could come at a premium cost.

New Cubs’ team president Theo Epstein talked about the new dynamic with Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com yesterday:

“We still set out with the same goal of winning the division, but clearly it makes the bar of qualifying for postseason play lower and more attainable for teams that are kind of in that building phase. It’s a good thing.”

The Cubs plan to discuss a contract extension with Matt Garza during spring training, but he could be a major trade chip if the two sides fail to make progress. The 28-year-old is under team control through the 2013 season. However, Epstein is hopeful that the Cubs could be position to be buyers at the deadline.

“Hopefully, we’re in a position at the trade deadline where we’re looking to add that final piece to get us in a better position for postseason play,” Epstein said. “If things don’t go our way, and we’re not, then the landscape is always defined by how many teams are looking to add and how many teams are willing to move a piece.

“Does an additional playoff team change that? Sure, sure it does. It changes that dynamic. But I’m not going to go into it expecting the club to be sellers. I think we’re trying to play our best possible baseball we can to put ourselves in a position to be in contention at the deadline. But if you’re selling at the deadline, by definition it’s been a failed year.”

Head over to CSNChicago.com for more of Mooney’s exclusive interview with Epstein.

Fried, Braves go to salary arbitration for 2nd straight year

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Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Pitcher Max Fried went to salary arbitration with the Atlanta Braves for the second straight year, asking for $15 million instead of the team’s $13.5 million offer.

The 29-year-old left-hander went 14-7 for the second straight season and lowered his ERA to 2.48 from 3.04 in 2021. Fried was a first-time All-Star last season, was second to Miami’s Sandy Alcantara in Cy Young Award voting and was third in the National League in ERA behind Alcantara and Julio Urias with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Fried won a $6.85 million salary last year instead of the team’s $6.6 million proposal in arbitration. That was after he pitched six shutout innings in World Series Game 6 as the Braves won their first title since 1995.

Fried, who is eligible for free agency after the 2024 World Series, had his case heard Friday by a panel that’s expected to issue a decision Saturday.

Players have won two of three decisions so far: Pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Miami Marlins. But Seattle defeated Diego Castillo ($2.95 million).

A decision is being held for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe, whose case was argued Monday. About 20 more cases are scheduled through Feb. 17.