The Cubs announced Sunday that the team has declined the $12 million option on Jason Hammel’s contract for 2017. The 34-year-old right-hander now becomes a free agent.
Hammel won a career-high 15 games, finishing 15-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 30 starts this season, striking out 144 over 166 2/3 innings.
In a statement, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein thanked Hammel for his contributions to the team.
“He was an effective, reliable starter the entire time he was a Cub, and this year he was an integral part of one of the best rotations in club history,” Epstein said. “We would not have been in a position to win the World Series without Jason’s terrific performance during the regular season. Jason and his family have been outstanding members of our organization and our community, and we are proud of their time with and impact on the Cubs.
“While Jason is healthy and primed to have another effective season in 2017, we have decided to consider other internal and external options for our starting rotation next year,” Epstein said. “Our hope is that by giving a starting opportunity to some younger pitchers under multiple years of club control, we can unearth a starter who will help us not only in 2017 but also in 2018 and beyond.”
Epstein said that when they agreed with Hammel on the two-year contract at the 2014 Winter Meetings, the option was included with the intent that it would be exercised if the pitcher was going to be with the Cubs in 2017.
“The intent was never to exercise the option and then trade Jason, so we will not consider that path,” Epstein said. “Instead, Jason will have the opportunity to enter free agency coming off an outstanding season and the ability to choose his next club. Meanwhile, the organization gains some flexibility and the opportunity to use a rotation spot to develop a younger, long-term starting pitcher.”
This move could benefit lefty Mike Montgomery, who made five starts with the Cubs after he was acquired from the Mariners for Dan Vogelbach. Montgomery compiled a 2.82 ERA in 17 appearances with the Cubs. As a starter this year, he was 1-1 with a 3.28 ERA in seven games, (including two with the Mariners.
The Cubs list of free agents also includes Dexter Fowler, Aroldis Chapman, Travis Wood, Joe Smith, Chris Coghlan, Trevor Cahill, and David Ross, who has said he’s retiring after this season.