Cubs non-tender Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr.

Schwarber and Almora are now free agents.
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(670 The Score) In the strongest sign to date that big roster changes could be looming this offseason, the Cubs on Wednesday declined to tender a contract for 2021 to starting left fielder Kyle Schwarber.

Additionally, the Cubs declined to extend contracts to outfielder Albert Almora Jr., outfielder/designated hitter Jose Martinez and reliever Ryan Tepera. The moves make all four players free agents.

The Cubs could still re-sign the 27-year-old Schwarber to a lower annual salary than what he was projected to land in arbitration, but that would depend on his desire to return, the price point and how much interest he draws from other suitors. The sides are having discussions, Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago reported.

The Cubs did tender contracts to third baseman Kris Bryant, shortstop Javier Baez, catcher Willson Contreras, catcher Victor Caratini and outfielder Ian Happ. All five of them are arbitration-eligible this winter. Additionally, the Cubs agreed to terms on 2021 contracts with right-hander Colin Rea, reliever Dan Winkler and reliever Kyle Ryan, avoiding arbitration with each of them.

Schwarber was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to cost $7.9 million in arbitration, a figure the Cubs didn’t find commensurate with his recent production as the organization also faces financial challenges amid the pandemic. Schwarber hit .188 with 11 homers, 24 RBIs and a .701 OPS in 59 games in 2020. He did have a solid campaign in 2019, hitting .250 with 38 homers, 92 RBIs and an .871 OPS.

The Cubs selected Schwarber in the first round of the 2014 amateur draft, and he’ll forever be remembered for making a triumphant and unexpected return from a devastating knee injury early in the 2016 regular season to play a key role in helping the Cubs win the World Series. Schwarber hit .412 in that World Series, and he hit 121 homers in the regular season in his Cubs career and another six in the playoffs.

Almora, 26, struggled in batting .167 with a .465 OPS in limited action in 2020, when he was also demoted to the team’s alternate camp in South Bend. Almora was the Cubs’ first-round pick in the 2012 amateur draft and ascended to the big leagues in 2016. His career got off to a promising start, including when he hit .298 with a .782 OPS in 132 games in 2017, but his offensive production dipped mightily from there. Almora was projected to make just shy of $1.6 million in arbitration.

The Cubs acquired Martinez, 32, just before the trade deadline this past season, but he gave them no production. He was 0-of-21 with a walk in 22 plate appearances and was demoted to the alternate camp. Martinez was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make $2.1 million in arbitration.

Tepera, 33, had a 3.92 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 21 appearances this past season, his first with Chicago. He had been projected to earn $1.1 million in arbitration.

The Cubs' 40-man roster stands at 34 players.