The Cubs non-tendered third baseman Ian Stewart and relief pitchers Jaye Chapman and Zach Putnam on Friday night, while offering arbitration to Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, Luis Valbuena and James Russell.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said earlier Friday they hoped to re-sign their non-tendered players to minor league deals.
"We do have hard decisions to make, but we don't want to lose any of the guys we may cut loose," he said.
The decision on the 27-year-old Stewart wasn't a big surprise because he is recovering from left wrist surgery and made $2.3 million in 2012 while hitting .201 in 55 games.
Chapman and Putnam were not arbitration eligible, but were non-tendered to open up space on the 40-man roster. The Cubs offered contracts to the other 14 players on the 40-man who aren't eligible for arbitration. The roster now stands at 37, providing some flexibility heading into the winter meetings that start Monday in Nashville, Tenn.
Chapman, 25, was successful in his September call-up after being acquired from the Braves in the Paul Maholm deal. President Theo Epstein said after the season Chapman had a good shot at making the team out of spring training. Putnam was claimed off waivers from the Rockies last month.
The Cubs bullpen is an area Hoyer said was in need of an upgrade, and both Chapman and Putnam fit in to their plans -- if re-signed. Hoyer said they will look for bullpen help at the winter meetings, along with another outfielder, a third baseman and perhaps even another starter. Valbuena will make the team, but is expected to return to a backup role.
Hoyer confirmed the Cubs have spoken to Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa and "came away very impressed." He declined to elaborate on talks. The Cubs tried to trade Carlos Marmol to the Angels last month for Dan Haren, but pulled the deal off the table at the last minute.
"Carlos had a great second half," Hoyer said. "If we bring in someone who has closing experience, or a number of guys who have that experience, that's no knock on Carlos. Every team wants to have an assortment of guys who, if the need arises, can pitch in the ninth inning. And hopefully we can do that."
Hoyer said the bullpen "put too much pressure" on Shawn Camp, Russell and Marmol, who combined for 218 appearances in 2012.
"If we find a player who makes sense and is an upgrade, we'll certainly do that," Hoyer said. "If you think you have enough pitching, you're always wrong."
Hoyer said the Cubs also are trying out third baseman/shortstop Junior Lake in the outfield in the Dominican Republic, on a team veteran Pirates scout Dave Jauss is managing.
"We don't know exactly what his final (position) will be, but it's nice to get reports from Dave Jauss in the D.R. talking about his development," Hoyer said.
Lake had 26 doubles and 10 home runs at Double-A Tennessee last year, hitting .279. He isn't in line to make the Cubs yet, but is one of their more interesting prospects in the upper levels.
As for the winter meetings, Hoyer said the Cubs have no "untouchables" on the roster.
"We certainly have several players that we'd have a hard time parting with, and it would take a heck of a package to make it happen," he said. "In general, there shouldn't be many untouchables in the game.
And there certainly shouldn't be on teams that are looking to acquire a lot of talent."