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Cubs ink backup infielder David Bote to surprising five-year, $15 million deal

David Bote flies around the bases after hitting a walkoff grand slam to beat the Nationals at Wrigley Field in August.

ATLANTA — With no contract extensions on the horizon for their young starting infielders, the Cubs did the next-best thing Wednesday and locked up their top backup with a five-year extension through 2024.

Even after a flurry of extensions throughout baseball in recent weeks, David Bote’s $15 million deal was a surprise after less than a season in the big leagues and just 78 career games.

“He actually reached out to us to start the process, seeking some security, and it honestly wasn’t something that we anticipated doing,” team president Theo Epstein said. “And we counseled him that typically these things happen a little bit later in someone’s career.”

But Bote, 25, who only became an every-day player in the minors his last two seasons before his major-league debut, preferred security. And the Cubs see him as a player who could start for a lot of other teams and has room to grow, especially as a power hitter.

Unlike the extension process with pitcher Kyle Hendricks, which took more than a year and seemed unlikely to get done more than once, the Cubs and Bote got a deal done almost as quickly as Bote reached out.

Despite Bote’s abilities and projected upside, the deal is also surprising because of his place on a roster full of veterans. Had shortstop Addison Russell not been suspended and Ian Happ not unexpectedly earned a demotion to Class AAA to start the season, it’s doubtful Bote would have had a job opening to win this spring.

“I’m humbled and grateful and super-excited,” said Bote, a backup at second and third who can handle shortstop in a pinch. “It’s crazy. All the people that have been on this road with me — my parents, my family, my siblings, my wife. It’s incredible.”

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His contract includes club options of $7  million for 2025 and $7.6 million for 2026 that could bring the value to $28.6 million for seven years. He also has salary escalators based on plate appearances that could make the contract worth up to $30.2 million.

“We think his role right now as sort of a lefty-mashing infielder is a floor for him,” Epstein said of Bote, a hard-working right-handed hitter who ranks among the elites in the majors in average exit velocity. “The guy hits the ball literally as hard as anyone in the game. That already plays really well against left-handed pitching. We think that, as he gets more and more at-bats under his belt, there’s a chance that that raw power is going to turn into game power on a pretty consistent basis, and he’s got a chance to expand his role and his impact a little bit down the line.”

Bote, who’s making $561,500 this year, will make $950,000 in the first year of his new deal next year, then $1 million in 2021, $2.5  million in 2022, $4 million in 2023 and $5.5 million in 2024. The guaranteed money also includes a $50,000 signing bonus and a $1 million buyout on the 2025 option.

Asked whether more extensions could be in the works after the Hendricks deal last week and this one, Epstein said, “We don’t have anything going right now.”

Then he added: “But I said that to you the other day, and that changed quickly.”