Friday, February 02, 2007

Cubs, Prior Agree to Deal; Zambrano is Next

Although I’m a couple days late on this, the Cubs and P Mark Prior avoided salary arbitration and agreed to a one-year, $3.575 million contract. The agreement includes a bonus for starting 27 games, and another $150,000 bonus for starting 30 games.

The oft-injured Prior is in a make or break situation with the Cubs. Although the right-hander continues to have great potential, it is likely that the Cubs will cut bait after this year if Prior doesn’t realize some of that potential. While it is true that another team will probably be willing to throw some money at Prior next off-season even if he doesn’t pitch much or well in 2007, the Cubs are likely done spending money on his unrealized potential.

Having said that, I remain cautiously optimistic that Prior will rebound in 2007. At the moment, he appears healthy and prepared to do the hard work necessary to come back from injury. I’m not ready to say he’ll return to his 2003 form, but I do expect him to battle for a place in the starting rotation and will make a positive contribution to the team.

Prior’s signing leaves only Carlos Zambrano without a deal for 2007. The Cubs and Zambrano are rather far apart in the numbers they submitted for arbitration and the rumor over the past few days is that the two sides may not be able to reach a long term agreement before the arbitration hearing.

The arbitration process is set up to where a team necessarily has to bash their own player in order to influence the arbitrator. Everyone understands that the process is set up this way, but that will not stop the very emotional Zambrano from taking exception with the things Jim Hendry has to say about him as part of the process. Worst case scenario, the Cubs could win the arbitration proceeding, but end up alienating their best pitcher to the point where he loses interest in signing with the Cubs before testing the free agency waters.

My personal opinion is that at the moment, Zambrano is not worth the $15.5 million he is asking for in arbitration. The Cubs agree, but Zambrano and his agent are acting as if Z is already a free agent and they are asking for free agent money. The best thing Hendry can do at this point is work with Zambrano in a way that allows Z to save face while still getting a lucrative, long-term contract. Because with Zambrano, it’s not just about the money. It’s about the money and his pride.


Post a Comment

<< Home