Cubs decline option on 15-game winner Hammel

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Just days after winning the MLB World Series, the Chicago Cubs are without two players who helped the club win 103 games during the regular season. 

On Sunday, the Cubs declined a $12million club option on 15-game winner Jason Hammel's contract for next season, making him a free agent.

The right-handed starter joins outfielder Dexter Fowler as former Cubs players who will test free agency this offseason. 

"We would not have been in a position to win the World Series without Jason's terrific performance during the regular season," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in part in a statement. 

"The organization gains some flexibility and the opportunity to use a rotation spot to develop a younger, long-term starting pitcher."

The Cubs could have gotten a valuable prospect had they exercised Hammel's option and then traded him.

But, Epstein explained "the intent was never to exercise the option and then trade Jason, so we will not consider that path."

Hammel, 34, suffered from right elbow tightness in September and did not pitch for the Cubs during the postseason.

He went 15-10 with a 3.83 ERA this past season with a 144:53 K:BB ratio over 166 innings. 

Hammel joins a weak free-agent pitching market and could be in line for multi-year deal with a new team, although Epstein left the door open for a return to Chicago. 

"We would certainly be open to Jason re-joining the organization in the future," he said. "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."