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Contract flap resolved, Cubs’ Tyler Chatwood works on earning multiple Cy votes

Tyler Chatwood

MESA, Ariz. — Tyler Chatwood didn’t know exactly what to make of it when his agent called in December and “sounded like he was in a little bit of a hurry” trying to explain some controversial clause in his new contract with the Cubs.

Controversial? Tyler Chatwood?

“It was something about bribery or something,” the right-hander said.

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Or something. It was about the conflict of interest created by language in the clause that added millions of dollars of value to his three-year contract for appearing anywhere on the Cy Young ballot of even one baseball writer.

The same issue arose in 2007 when then-Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein included a similarly worded escalator clause in Curt Schilling’s contract. It led to an agreement between the players’ union and Major League Baseball to ban such language in future contracts.

“I guess there was a certain situation where somebody had it before,” said Chatwood, whose agent assured him it wouldn’t be a big deal. “And it didn’t turn out to be a big deal.”

Chatwood hadn’t signed his contract yet, so it required only a quick fix in the language.

Now he gets the escalators if he finishes in the top 10 in Cy Young voting and must appear on multiple ballots.

Chatwood said he was never worried about the contract flap.

“If my numbers didn’t dictate, it’d look pretty weird that I got a Cy Young vote knowing I shouldn’t deserve one,” he said.

If anything, it was mostly surprising for the amount of attention it put on a guy who has spent most of his six years in the big leagues out of the limelight.

He dipped below the radar again in his own camp last week after the Cubs signed Yu Darvish, putting three All-Stars and an ERA champ in the four spots ahead of him in the rotation.

“He’s not going to get talked about a lot,” manager Joe Maddon said, “which probably means he’s going to have a killer year because he’s got that kind of ability.”

Chatwood, 28, has always been intriguing to evaluators who liked his stuff and wondered what he could do if he got out of Colorado, where he spent the last five -seasons.

“I’ve always been a fan,” Maddon said. “He’s got good stuff, man. He’s got really good stuff. We’ve got to keep him healthy and let him go out there and pitch his games because he can be a very heavy, positive contributor.”

Chatwood doesn’t like to use -Coors Field as an excuse for his numbers, which included a 4.69 ERA last season and a league-leading 15 losses for a team that made the playoffs.

“It’s mentally grinding,” he said of pitching in Denver, where the mile-high environment can make throwing the same pitches result in dramatically different movement. “But you’ve just got to deal with it. It’s in the past now.”

Chatwood and the Cubs believe he should be able to more effectively, and frequently, use his breaking ball now.

And his dramatic career home-and-road splits suggest the kind of uptick he might get with a team closer to sea level, including a 3.49 ERA and 1.229 WHIP away from Colorado last year (compared to 6.01 and 1.678 at Coors).

Not that he figures to get much more attention anytime soon with Darvish and Jon Lester in the same rotation.

“I don’t need to be talked about,” Chatwood said. “Coming from a small market, nobody knew us anyway.”

Then, again, if he does start to do the things he and the Cubs think he can, all of that might change in a hurry.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

MESA, Ariz. – Tyler Chatwood didn’t know exactly what to make of it when his agent called in December and “sounded like he was in a little bit of a hurry,” trying to explain some controversial clause in his new contract with the Cubs.

Controversial? Tyler Chatwood?

“It was something about bribery or something,” the right-hander said

Or something. It was about the conflict of interest created by language in the contract clause that added millions of dollars of value to his three-year contract for appearing anywhere on the Cy Young ballot of even one baseball writer.

The same issue arose in 2007 when then-Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein included a similarly worded escalator clause in Curt Schilling’s contract – eventually resulting in an agreement with the players’ union and Major League Baseball to ban such language in future contracts.

“I guess there was a certain situation where somebody had it before,” said Chatwood, whose agent assured him it wouldn’t be a big deal. “And it didn’t turn out to be a big deal.”

In fact, he hadn’t signed his contract yet so it required only a quick fix in the language before he signed.

Now he gets the escalators if he finishes in the top 10 in Cy Young voting and must appear on multiple ballots.

Chatwood said he was never worried about the contract flap.

“If my numbers didn’t dictate, it’d look pretty weird that I got a Cy Young vote knowing I shouldn’t deserve one,” he said.

If anything, it was mostly surprising for the amount of attention it put on a guy who has spent most of his six years in the big leagues out of the limelight.

In fact, he just dipped below the radar again even in his own camp this past week after Yu Darvish was signed by the Cubs – putting three All-Stars and an ERA champ firmly into the four spots ahead of him in the five-man starting rotation.

“He’s not going to get talked about a lot,” manager Joe Maddon said, “which probably means he’s going to have a killer year, because he’s got that kind of ability.”

Chatwood, 28, has always been intriguing to baseball evaluators who liked his stuff and wondered what he could do with it if he ever got out of Colorado – where he spent the last five years pitching for the Rockies.

“I’ve always been a fan,” Maddon said. “He’s got good stuff, man. He’s got really good stuff. We’ve got to keep him healthy and let him go out there and pitch his games, because he can be a very heavy, positive contributor.”

Chatwood doesn’t like to use Coors Field as an excuse for the kind of numbers that included a 4.69 ERA last year and league-leading 15 losses for a team that made the playoffs.

“It’s mentally grinding,” he said of the fact that throwing the same pitches can result in dramatically different movement in that mile-high environment. “But you’ve just got to deal with it. … It’s in the past now.”

He and the Cubs say they believe he should be able to more effectively, and frequently, use his breaking ball now.

And his dramatic career home-and-road splits suggest the kind of uptick in results he might get with a new team closer to sea level, including the 3.49 ERA and 1.229 WHIP away from Colorado last year (compared to 6.01 and 1.678 at Coors).

Not that he figures to get much more attention anytime soon with the likes of Darvish and Jon Lester in the same rotation.

“I don’t need to be talked about,” he said. “Coming from a small market, nobody knew us anyway.”

Then, again, if he does start to do the things he and the Cubs think he can with his new club, all of that might change in a hurry.

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub