Allen Webster was non-tendered by the Cubs on November 30, but his fate had effectively been sealed all the way back on September 13 in Washington. That’s when Joe Maddon left Pedro Strop in the game to bat for himself, which resulted in the reliever pulling his hamstring and missing the rest of the regular season. And when erstwhile closer Brandon Morrow was shut down five days later due to ongoing issues with a stress reaction in his elbow, the Cubs found themselves in desperate of bullpen help.
Enter Webster, whose season had presumably ended with his last appearance for Triple-A Iowa on September 2. Over two weeks removed from the mound, the 28-year-old righty had previous big league experience and was the choice to serve as a stopgap. But as Cubs Prospects pointed out on Twitter, that decision would end up costing Webster later.
A veteran of parts of 10 minor-league seasons, Webster was out of options and would have been eligible for free agency unless the Cubs either signed him to a minor league successor contract or added him to 40-man roster. They opted for the former at the conclusion of Iowa’s season, but then had to switch to the latter when Morrow was nixed.
Moving Webster to the 40-man nullified the successor contract, but the Cubs weren’t willing to lock up that extra roster spot knowing how much more work they’ve got to do this winter. So Webster was non-tendered, along with Justin Hancock and Ronald Torreyes, in order to trim the number of occupied spots to 36.
It’s still possible, likely even, that the Cubs work out a new deal to keep Webster in the organization and effectively turn this into an esoteric footnote no one will ever remember. But for the time being, it combines with the Torreyes moves to offer a glimpse at some of the procedural shuffling front offices must do in order to facilitate more notable moves.
The decision on Webster was made purely for the sake of a roster spot, but Torreyes’ situation may be slightly more complicated. While the Cubs may truly have been undecided about whether to tender Addison Russell a contract, it’s perhaps more likely they were looking for additional flexibility and a little salary relief.
Projected to earn $900,000 through arbitration, Torreyes would have represented a savings of a quarter-million or so over Tommy La Stella, who was traded to the Angels when Torreyes ostensibly made him even more expendable. The trades made sense from that perspective, since the Cubs gained flexibility from Torreyes’ defensive prowess at three positions and his remaining minor-league option.
But only two days after they had acquired their former prospect — Torreyes was part of the Sean Marshall/Travis Wood trade in 2012 — the Cubs opted not to tender him a contract for 2019. It’s been reported that they are in talks to sign him to a new deal, a minor-league pact that would save them even more money while preserving a 40-man spot, though that’s far from a guarantee. Outside of previous time in the organization, it’s not as though Torreyes would feel any loyalty to the Cubs to stick around.
Now, the Cubs may well have had conversations about next steps with the players involved prior to making these roster decisions. That way everyone’s on the same page about what is going on, which would make sense given the circumstances surrounding Webster and Torreyes in particular. We’ll find out soon enough how everything will shake out, not to mention how the Cubs are able to allocate the roster spots they freed up.
Ain’t the offseason fun?