The Chicago Cubs have been on the look for low-risk, high-reward options throughout the current offseason and their most recent signing fits this same description.
According to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Cubs have reached an agreement with free agent relief pitcher Tony Barnette on a one-year contract. The right-handed Barnette will receive a guaranteed $750,000 next season and the Cubs control an option for the 2020 season worth $3.00 million.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Barnette will also receive an additional $250,000 next season if he earns a spot on the 25-man roster at any point as well as an additional $250,000 if he remains on the active roster for 155 days during the regular season. There will also be an opportunity for him to earn an additional $250,000 worth of incentives for the upcoming season that have not yet been disclosed.
As Barnette has only put together 3.000 years of service time to this point, there is also a clause in the contract to release the right-handed reliever back to free agency if the $3.00 million team option is not exercised ahead of the 2020 regular season. This clause prevents the Cubs from being able to control the 35-year-old through his remaining arbitration-eligible seasons.
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Barnette made his major league debut for the Texas Rangers when he was 32-years-old during the 2016 regular season. He put together an impressive 7-3 win-loss record through 53 appearances out of the bullpen. During these appearances, he also had an impressive 2.09 ERA, 3.38 FIP, and 1.160 WHIP.
Despite a rough 2017 season in which he compiled a mediocre 5.49 ERA, 4.01 FIP, and 1.500 WHIP through 50 relief appearances, Barnette was able to turn things around last season. Through 22 appearances in 2018, he compiled a very solid 2.39 ERA, 2.97 FIP, and 0.911 WHIP. He also put together 26 strikeouts compared to only 5 walks during this time.
Even though he was able to return to his rookie season form last year, he did have three separate stints on the disabled list. The first trip in March was due to a lower back strain, the second trip in April was due to right shoulder inflammation, and the season-ending stint in July was also due to a right shoulder strain. Despite the injuries last season, Barnette appears to be on track for Spring Training as he is now a member of the Cubs’ 40-man roster.
Barring any injuries, Brad Brach, Steve Cishek, Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, and Pedro Strop are likely guaranteed a spot in the bullpen for next season. Due to this, there could be room for Barnette to earn a spot in the bullpen out of Spring Training if he outperforms other relievers such as Brian Duensing, Brandon Kintzler, and George Kontos.