ATLANTA (AP) — The Chicago Cubs believe it was time to give David Bote a big-money contract, even if they are not ready to give the infielder a starting job.
Bote and the Chicago Cubs agreed to a $15 million, five-year contract covering 2020-24 on Wednesday, a deal with two team options that if exercised would increase its value to $28.6 million over seven seasons.
The 25-year-old has less than one year of major league service and has made two starts at second base and one at third base this season. He hit .239 with six homers in 184 at-bats last year.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein described Bote’s current role as “sort of lefty mashing infielder.” Epstein and the Cubs believe Bote can evolve as a more complete hitter with a full-time job.
“With how hard he hits the ball and his desire to learn and make adjustments and his work ethic, there is a significant chance he raises the floor and takes on an even greater role sometime in the future,” Epstein said.
Epstein said Bote “hits the ball literally as hard as anybody in the game.”
“As he gets more and more at-bats under his belt, there’s a chance that raw power is going to turn into game power on a pretty consistent basis,” Epstein said. “He has a chance to expand his role and impact.”
Bote said it was a compliment for the Cubs to even discuss a new contract for a player now filling a utility role.
“The fact that they even brought it up was something special,” Bote said. “They haven’t done anything like this with anybody else. It means a lot and the faith they have in me.”
Bote agreed last month to a one-year contract that pays a salary of $561,500 in the major leagues and $163,100 if he is sent to the minors.
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His new contract includes a $50,000 signing bonus payable within 30 days of the deal’s approval by the commissioner’s office. He gets salaries of $950,000 in 2020, $1 million in 2021, $2.5 million in 2022, $4 million in 2023 and $5.5 million in 2024. The Cubs have a $7 million option for 2025 and a $7.6 million for 2026, each with a $1 million buyout.
Bote currently is blocked by Kris Bryant at third base and, following the expected return of suspended shortstop Addison Russell next month, by Javier Baez at second base.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Bote eventually can push his way into a starting role.
“He definitely is capable of playing every day,” Maddon said. “There’s no doubt. Right now he’s capable of playing every day. … His time will come. He’s got the right mental way that he’s not going to get upset as he’s gaining this opportunity to play every day. His head is absolutely screwed on properly.”
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