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.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.