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Major League Baseball clubs and their arbitration-eligible players have until February 21 to come to terms on a 2010 contract – either by way of agreement, or arbitration, which can be scheduled at any time in those first three weeks of February.

It would be no surprise if you didn’t know this, because the Chicago Cubs haven’t gone to an arbitration in over 15 years. But this year, arbitration is a real risk for the Cubs with respect to closer Carlos Marmol and shortstop Ryan Theriot.

Marmol and the Cubs aren’t that far apart in their respect 2010 salary positions: the Cubs have offered $1.75 million, and Marmol has requested $2.5 million. Given the relatively modest $750k difference, the Cubs are likely to bend, and settle closer to Marmol’s requested figure in order to keep things out of arbitration. Though arbitration favors the teams about three out of every four times, Marmol’s request in this case is fairly reasonable. There has been no word on negotiations between Marmol and the Cubs, though you have to believe they are ongoing.

As for Theriot, ┬áhe’s living on the moon: the Cubs offered a very reasonable $2.6 million, but Theriot requested $3.4 million. For an average, at best, hitting shortstop, who is below average defensively and below average on the basepaths, one has to wonder what the Cubs were thinking in offering so much, let along Theriot in requesting even more. Though the difference between the two sides is just $800k, Theriot is reportedly (according to some radio reports over the weekend) digging in, unwilling to drop significantly from his $3.4 million request.

Theriot is clearly missing the forest for the trees: if you are merely average at your position, and there’s a stud prospect right on your heels (Starlin Castro), is it wise to piss off your current employer? Further more, is it wise to squeeze as much cash for 2010 as possible in your first year of arbitration? Given the escalating nature of salaries in arbitration, if Theriot has another average year in 2010, rightly or wrongly, he’d be on track to get another significant raise in arbitration in 2011. If his 2010 salary is sufficiently high – like, oh, let’s say $3.4 million – guess what happens, Ryan? You get non-tendered by the Cubs after the season. And do you think, after another average year, you’ll get anything close to that amount on the free agent market?

Going to arbitration with Theriot, as with Marmol, is probably a mistake. But if Theriot absolutely will not come down to $3 million – which is still far too much for a guy with Theriot’s skill set in his first year of arbitration – then the Cubs should head to their first arbitration since 1993. Heck, let me argue that case. I’ll get the Cubs their $2.6 million.

  • brian

    I have to bring up the fact that Theriot does not seem to have a long future with the Cubs eventually both Castro and Lee will be ready to be everyday players and Theriot, personally I think locking up Theriot until then would not be that bad of an idea… but that’s just my opinion

    • Ace

      I’m certainly not advocating locking up Theriot long term, but I think believing Castro and Lee (particularly Lee, who has yet to play above A-ball) will be ready and able to start for the Cubs in 2011 is optimistic. The Cubs, for better or worse, might need Theriot beyond 2010. And it’s a shame that he’s only helping to price himself out.

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