The Cubs and lefty Justin Steele avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $4 million salary for the 2024 season, his first of arb-eligibility. That figure is right in line with MLB Trade Rumors’ projections, so there’s really no impact on estimated luxury tax calculations. Steele still has three more years of club control, though the Cubs may seek to buy those out with an extension prior to 2027.
That price tag will go up markedly if Steele takes another stride forward this season after huge improvements in each of the last two campaigns. He looked like a legit Cy Young Candidate for much of last year before fading down the stretch and being overtaken by Blake Snell and others, which was not entirely surprising given his innings load.
After having never reached 100 innings in any of his first seven professional seasons, Steele logged 119 in 2023. Then he blasted past that to throw 173.1 innings over 30 starts, respective increases of 46% and 25% over his previous highs. That disparity is the result of a much more efficient performance that saw him cut his walk rate nearly in half.
I still think the Cubs need to add more front-line pitching, but here’s to hoping Steele can run with the role of staff ace.