As everybody around here probably knows, Corey Patterson is among five Cubs (Carlos Zambrano, Jerry Hairston, Jr, Juan Pierre, and Will Ohman are the others) who must be offered salary arbitration by next Tuesday, or they can become free-agents.
I'm sure Jim Hendry will tender the offer of arbitration to Zambrano, Pierre, and Ohman, and PROBABLY to Hairston, but I'm beginning to wonder if Patterson might not get non-tendered.
I believe there are any number of clubs in MLB who would love to take a chance on Corey Patterson
, but the stumbling block is what he might get in salary arbitration.
Most teams (I believe) would feel comfortable offering Patterson a one-year contract (or maybe even a two-year deal, taking him to free-agency) with a low base salary (maybe $1m per season) plus incentive bonuses that could bring the value up to maybe $2.5m (maximum) per year. But there HAS to be a low base salary in case he can't claim a starting job and is used as a 4th or 5th OF (pinch-runner/late-inning defense).
If Patterson goes to arbitration, however (whether it be with the Cubs or with a new team that acquires him in a trade), the arbitrator will choose between two salary figures, one submitted by the club, and one by the player, and the arbitrator has to choose one or the other, not "split the difference." Which figure to choose is based on how the player in question compares STATISTICALLY to other players at that position. Granted, Patterson's BA was terrible last year, but his HR and SB totals were pretty good. Arbitration figures are "straight" salary--no incentive bonuses, no club option for a second year--so who would want to make a trade for Patterson, not knowing what some screwy arbitrator might do?
The Cubs can't low-ball him ($1.5m), or he could win the hearing with a $3m or maybe even a $4.m figure, and then the Cubs would REALLY
be stuck with him!. If the Cubs offer $2.5m (let's say), and win, and then want to use him in a trade, it's possible no other team will want him at that price, and then the Cubs might have to pick up up half or even more than half of his salary if they do find another club who might be interested.
So the Cubs are in a tough spot.
The best bet for the Cubs would be to trade Corey Patterson and probably a second player (like Todd Wellemeyer
, who is out of minor league options) to the Colorado Rockies for someone making more money than what Patterson and Wellemeyer will make (combined) in 2006 (even if C-Pat gets $2.5m or $3m in arbitration). And that "someone" could be former N. L. Rookie of the Year RHP Jason Jennings
, who will be making $4.4m in 2006 and $5.5m (or $100,000 buy-out with salary arbitration instead) in 2007, before being eligible for free-agency after the 2007 season (same time Corey Patterson wil be a FA)
If he wants to resurrect his career, there would be no better place for Corey Patterson to do it than with the Colorado Rockies in Coors Field (low expectations, minimal media scrutiny, forgiving fans), and it has been reported for months that the Rockies (for some unknown reason) are "hot" after Wellemeyer.
Jennings has decent road splits, always has pitched well at Wrigley Field, and as a bonus, is one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball (and like Zambrano, could be used as a PH on days he's not pitching). And having Jennings around to replace Kerry Wood
in the starting rotation until Woody is ready would lessen the loss of Jerome Williams
should he be used in a trade for a RF. Or if the Cubs have other plans for J. Williams, Jennings could be "flipped" for a RF.
The bottom line is, if the Cubs don't think they can work out such a deal, it's just possible Corey Patterson might
get non-tendered next Tuesday.
Not a "lock" or anything, but certainly a reasonable possibility. Stay tuned.
I was going to comment in the comments, but I decided to add my two cents here because, well, I can.
I'm surprised to see so many people saying "there's no way Patterson will be non-tendered," because my first thought is that there's no way he will be. In the comments, Chad suggested that "they will go to arbitration and [Patterson] will get very little money." As Rob G. pointed out, the Cubs never
go to arbitration. This is apparently a point of pride for Hendry et al. Even if they did
go to arbitration, though, the lowest salary the Cubs could offer Patterson is $2.24M - a player can't take more than a 20% pay cut in arbitration and he made $2.8M last year.
One thing the Cubs might try to do is that the Brewers are trying to work out with Danny Kolb: non-tender him, making him a free agent, and then re-sign him for less money. Of course, that would allow Patterson to sign with anyone who showed interest in him.
It would also suggest that the Cubs are interested in having Patterson on the roster. Why would they be? He chose not to go to winter ball despite the Cubs' strong, strong suggestion that he go. The Cubs traded for Juan Pierre and have Felix Pie (theoretically) a year away. What role could Patterson play on the 2006 Cubs? I don't think anyone wants him to be the starting right fielder, and I certainly don't want to pay him $2M+ to be a 4th outfielder or "work on his game" in Iowa. Patterson's tenure as a Cub should be over. If that means non-tendering him and getting nothing in return for him, so be it.