Hidden deep within the bowels of this story
about the Chicago Cubs and Prior agreeing to a deal yesterday, Bruce Miles gives us this sobering thought:
Prior’s settlement leaves the Cubs with one arbitration case pending, and all indications are that it will go to a hearing.
Star pitcher Carlos Zambrano is looking to up his salary from $6.5 million last year to $15.5 million. The Cubs are holding firm at $11.025 million.
Zambrano, who went 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA in 33 starts in 2006, won’t be a free agent until next fall, but Cubs insiders apparently believe Zambrano and his agents are approaching this year as if he already is on the open market. For that reason, the Cubs likely will not want to settle at the midpoint between the two figures.
An arbitration hearing is set for Feb. 20, and things could get interesting if it gets that far because teams generally put forth negative statistics in their argument for the arbitrator, who must pick one figure or the other.
Ugh, first we get the revelation that Zambrano doesn't seem to inclined to go along with the Hendry plan of we'll sign you long-term the year before you hit the open market. Hey Z, it's a good plan, it works, no reason to mess it up now.
Second, if they do make it to arbitration, the chances of Z sticking around go down dramatically. Those cases can get ugly as the team basically has to berate its own player and Z seems like a proud hombre that won't take kindly to that sort of talk. Of course, I think the Cubs have a solid case, I don't know of any pitchers going into their sixth year of service time who got anywhere near $15 million.
Hendry still has a few weeks to fix this one and he's got a good track record on signing his own players, but we're getting dangerously close to panic time.