Reliever Hector Neris and Chicago Cubs finalize $9 million, 1-year contract

CHICAGO (AP) — Reliever Héctor Neris and the Chicago Cubs finalized a $9 million, one-year contract on Thursday, a deal that includes option and performance bonuses that could increase its value to about $22 million over two seasons.

The 34-year-old right-hander gets a $9 million salary this year, and the agreement includes a $9 million team option for 2025. The option would become a player option if Neris pitches in 60 games this season or finishes 45, is not on the injured list for the final game of the season and does not have a significant injury.

Neris went 6-3 with a 1.71 ERA in 71 games with Houston last season. He has made at least 60 appearances six times, including each of the last three years.

Neris likely will slot in as one of Chicago’s primary setup men for Adbert Alzolay, who had 22 saves in 25 chances in 2023 in his first season as the closer. The Cubs also have Julian Merryweather and Mark Leiter Jr. at the back of their bullpen.

Chicago is looking for its first playoff appearance since it was eliminated by Miami in an NL Wild Card Series in 2020. The Cubs were in position for a wild card last year before stumbling in September, fading to an 83-79 record after finishing under .500 in the previous two seasons.

Cubs manager Craig Counsell was hired in November, replacing David Ross in a surprising move. The Cubs also added to their rotation when they finalized a $53 million, four-year contract with Japanese left-hander Shōta Imanaga on Jan. 11.

Michael Busch was acquired in a trade with the Dodgers to play first base, but Chicago still could use a big bat for its lineup. It is hoping to re-sign Cody Bellinger, who is a free agent after putting together a resurgent season with the Cubs.

Neris made his big league debut with Philadelphia in 2014 and spent his first eight seasons with the Phillies. He signed a $17 million, two-year contract with Houston in November 2021. He declined his part of an $8.5 million mutual option for 2024 with the Astros and became a free agent.

Neris is 33-36 with a 3.24 ERA and 89 saves in 546 career games. He also is 2-0 with a 4.40 ERA in 15 career postseason games, helping Houston win the World Series in 2022.

Right-hander Michael Rucker was designated for assignment to open a roster spot.