As the Cubs entered the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes Friday, they parted with one of their best investments — reliever Hector Rondon.
The Cubs elected not to tender a contract to Rondon, 29, who was drafted as a Rule 5 pick from the Indians before the 2013 season and earned 77 saves from 2014 to 2016. But offering him a contract likely would have cost the Cubs more than $6 million in arbitration after Rondon posted a 4.24 ERA with 10 home runs and 20 walks in 571/3 innings last season.
Rondon was the only one of seven arbitration-eligible players to whom the Cubs didn’t tender a contract before Friday night’s deadline. The others — third baseman Kris Bryant, pitcher Kyle Hendricks, shortstop Addison Russell, left-handed reliever Justin Willson, right-handed reliever Justin Grimm and infielder Tommy La Stella — are considered signed players.
Catcher Taylor Davis, who wasn’t eligible for arbitration, also wasn’t offered a contract.
The Cubs, however, would like to sign one of the biggest free agents available this offseason in Ohtani, 23, a Japanese pitcher and left-handed-hitting outfielder whom the Nippon Ham Fighters posted.
Ohtani will face a full-court press from several interested teams until he makes a decision by Dec. 22. The sales pitches will be thick, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon presented his vision of managing a two-way player like Ohtani, who would like to be hitting when he’s not pitching.
“I’ve always been intrigued by the concept,” Maddon told WSCR-AM 670. “I see nothing wrong with it. How you utilize it, that would be in progress. You’d have an idea of what you’d want to do, but then you’d figure out more as you do it.
“I definitely think it’s a wave of the future in a sense.”
The team Ohtani selects would pay a $20 million posting fee to the Ham Fighters, and Ohtani would be treated as a minor-league player in terms of service time until he reaches the majors — which could be immediately thanks to his 100-mph fastball.
Maddon also said he expects Jake Arrieta, one of the top pitchers on the free-agent market, to sign elsewhere.
The Cubs, meanwhile, announced the signing of left-handed reliever Dario Alvarez, 28, who posted a 2.76 ERA in 20 appearances for the Rangers last season. Reliever Matt Carasiti was released and is expected to sign with a team in Japan.
The Cubs’ 40-man roster stands at 34.