Cubs decline the 2017 contract option for pitcher Jason Hammel

Starting pitcher Jason Hammel #39 of the Chicago Cubs delivers the ball against the Texas Rangers at Wrigley Field on July 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Starting pitcher Jason Hammel #39 of the Chicago Cubs delivers the ball against the Texas Rangers at Wrigley Field on July 16, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – At least one member of the Cubs’ 2016 starting pitching staff won’t be back to try to defend the World Series title.

On Sunday the Cubs announced that pitcher Jason Hammel’s 2017 contract option will not be picked up by the team. The option year would have given the starter $12 million for the season.

Hammel had a 15-10 record for the Cubs in 2016 with a 3.83 ERA as the Cubs’ fifth starter for most of the season. He was left off the active playoff roster for all three playoff series since manager Joe Maddon went with a four-man rotation.

“First, I want to thank Jason for all of his contributions in his almost three seasons as a Cub.  He was an effective, reliable starter the entire time he was a Cub, and this year he was an integral part of one of the best rotations in club history,” said Cubs president Theo Epstein in a release from the team. “We would not have been in a position to win the World Series without Jason’s terrific performance during the regular season.  Jason and his family have been outstanding members of our organization and our community, and we are proud of their time with and impact on the Cubs.

 “While Jason is healthy and primed to have another effective season in 2017, we have decided to consider other internal and external options for our starting rotation next year.  Our hope is that by giving a starting opportunity to some younger pitchers under multiple years of club control, we can unearth a starter who will help us not only in 2017 but also in 2018 and beyond.”

Joining the Cubs initially in 2014, Hammel spent half the year for the Cubs before being traded to the Athletics with Jeff Samardzija in the deal that brought Addison Russell to the Cubs.

The next offseason the Cubs brought Hammel back to the franchise where he accumulated a 25-17 record over two seasons.

“When we agreed with Jason on this two-year contract back at the 2014 winter meetings, the option was included with the intent that it would be exercised if Jason was going to be a Cub in 2017.  The intent was never to exercise the option and then trade Jason, so we will not consider that path,” said Epstein in a statement. ” Instead, Jason will have the opportunity to enter free agency coming off an outstanding season and the ability to choose his next club.  Meanwhile, the organization gains some flexibility and the opportunity to use a rotation spot to develop a younger, long-term starting pitcher.

 “We wish the Hammels nothing but the absolute best going forward.  We would certainly be open to Jason rejoining the organization in the future, but even if that never happens we will always consider him a Cub and be thankful for his role in delivering a World Series championship to the people of Chicago.”