Cubs avoid arbitration with Bryant, Báez, Contreras

Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
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CHICAGO — The Cubs avoided arbitration with three of their biggest stars, agreeing to one-year deals with third baseman Kris Bryant, shortstop Javier Baez and catcher Willson Contreras on Friday.

Bryant, who struggled through injuries in his worst season, is set to earn $19.5 million. Baez is due $11.65 million and Contreras $6.65 million.

The Cubs also agreed to an $8,63 million deal for next season with pitcher Zach Davies, acquired in the trade that sent NL Cy Young Award runner-up Yu Darvish to San Diego.

The Cubs were unable to reach a deal with outfielder Ian Happ and are headed to arbitration for just the third time since 1993. They beat infielder Ryan Theriot in 2010 and pitcher Justin Grimm in 2018.

Chicago also made a move for the future, agreeing to a minor league contract with promising international prospect Cristian Hernandez, a person familiar with the situation said. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal with the 17-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic has not been announced. MLB.com first reported the move.

The Cubs returned to the playoffs after missing out in 2019, only to score just one run while getting swept by Miami in their wild-card series. Theo Epstein stepped down as president of baseball operations and general manager Jed Hoyer got promoted to replace him. The Cubs then traded Darvish to San Diego for Davies and young prospects, ushering in a rebuilding phase.

With core players such as Baez and Bryant struggling, the Cubs ranked among the worst in the majors with a .220 batting average.

Baez, the 2018 NL MVP runner-up and two-time All-Star struggled in a big way at the plate last season. His averaged dropped 78 points to .203, and he hit just eight homers with 24 RBIs. Baez earned $3,703,704 prorated from a $10 million salary.

Bryant, the 2016 NL MVP, batted .206 – by far his career low. He had just four homers and 11 RBIs. Two of those home runs were hit in the final two games against the crosstown White Sox. Bryant earned a prorated $6,888,889 portion of an $18.6 million salary.

Contreras came on strong down the stretch at the plate to finish with a .243 average, seven homers and 26 RBIs. The two-time All-Star threw out nine runner stealing and drew praise for his improved pitch framing. Contreras earned $1,666,667 prorated from a $4.5 million salary.

Davies went 7-4 with a 2.73 ERA in 12 starts for San Diego last season. The 27-year-old right-hander was acquired by the Cubs along with a package of young prospects for Darvish and catcher Victor Caratini last month. Davies earned a prorated $1,944,444 portion of a $5,25 million salary.

Happ led the Cubs with 12 homers and was second on the team with 28 RBIs. He finished with a .258 average after slumping in September. He earned $231,111 prorated from a $624,000 salary.

Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers - Game Two
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.

The 30-year-old Yankees slugger drove a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jesus Tinoco into the first couple of rows of seats in left field when leading off the second game of New York’s day-night doubleheader.

Maris’ 61 for the Yankees in 1961 had been exceeded six times previously, but all were tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Barry Bonds hit an MLB-record 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001, and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris as holder of the legitimate record.

A Ruthian figure with a smile as outsized as his body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep drives that hearken to the sepia tone movie reels of his legendary pinstriped predecessors.

“He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ,” Roger Maris Jr. said Wednesday night after his father’s mark was matched by Judge. “I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”

Judge had homered only once in the past 13 games, and that was when he hit No. 61 last Wednesday in Toronto. The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was his 55th game in row played since Aug. 5.

After a single in five at-bats in the first game Tuesday, Judge was 3 for 17 with five walks and a hit by pitch since moving past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league record for 34 years. Maris hit his 61st off Boston’s Tracy Stallard at old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961.

Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBIs and began the day trailing Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315.

The home run in his first at-bat put him back to .311, where he had started the day before dropping a point in the opener.

Judge’s accomplishment will cause endless debate.

“To me, the holder of the record for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” author George Will said earlier this month. “There’s no hint of suspicion that we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the case of Judge. He’s clean. He’s not doing something that forces other players to jeopardize their health.”