Both Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora will probably live in Cubs folklore forever. The latter because he pinch-ran in game seven of the 2016 World Series and tagging up meant he scored the winning run. The former because of his mythically improbable comeback that same year to play in the World Series after an April injury shredded his knee.

But now they’re both done in Chicago. Baseball is a business, and it eventually forces realism out of even the most staunch romantics.

The deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players was Wednesday evening, and neither Schwarber nor Almora got one from the Cubs. Per Roster Resource, the estimated price for Almora in arbitration would have been around $1.5 million, and for Schwarber, about $8.1 million.

The Cubs’ estimated payroll for next year falls around $170 million, give or take a little. That would put them well below the luxury tax threshold for 2021, but they have the likes of Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, and Willson Contreras to appease in arbitration this winter as well.

The estimated combined total for those three players is somewhere between $35 and $40 million. The team announced Wednesday that they had tendered contracts to Bryant, Baez, and Contreras, along with Ian Happ, but the details of those contracts were not released.

Cost aside, the cold reality for Schwarber and Almora is that neither has produced enough, apparently. Both were first-round draft picks — Almora in 2012 and Schwarber in 2014 — but neither lived up to those expectations.

Almora was the first choice of the Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer front office, but he has produced a total of two wins above replacement since debuting in 2016. And for the last two seasons, he has been below replacement level. Almora’s selling point in absence of plate production was his glove until that started to slip as well; after being good for 10 defensive runs saved in 2018, he dropped to minus five the next season and broke even in 2020.

Despite Schwarber’s miraculous comeback in 2016, he struggled to find his footing in some of the years that followed. He improved somewhat as an outfielder but seems destined to be a designated hitter. It’s possible that uncertainties about the status of the DH in the National League in 2021 played a role in Schwarber’s being non-tendered, but there’s also the reality that he has weaknesses as a batter. Schwarber was bad enough in 2017 that he spent a couple of weeks in Triple-A, and though his strikeout rate has improved in the years since, last season’s .188 batting average and strikeout rate back up near 30 percent might have raised questions for the Cubs front office.

According to NBC Chicago’s Gordon Wittenmeyer, the Cubs have not closed the door on a contract extension with Schwarber. Keeping him around with an extension would likely mean that they are hoping to sign him at much less than $8 million per year, so Schwarber seems bound to choose to test his chances elsewhere.

How the Cubs would move forward post-Epstein becomes a little more clear with these roster decisions. Since Hoyer took over as the man running the team, he has not committed to whether the Cubs will rebuild again or continue to try to be competitive. Letting go of Schwarber and Almora does not by itself mean the team is rebuilding, but this is probably a first step in that direction.

Schwarber and Almora will be just 28 and 27 respectively next spring, so it’s safe to expect that both players will find new homes pretty easily. Wherever those are, they will always have at least figurative ones in Chicago.

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