The Milwaukee Brewers and Corey Hart engaged in the offseason’s first arbitration this week, and the decision came back yesterday: victory for Hart, who’d requested $4.8 million, which was $650k more than the Brewers had offered. Given that Hart was just average last year (100 OPS+), and below average in 2008 (98 OPS+), the figure is both surprising and terrifying for a guy in his second year of arbitration.

“I’m ecstatic. To be honest I was surprised,” said Hart. “I walked out of there yesterday and told my wife that I didn’t think it was going to go our way. If you look at the numbers, they go the teams’ way more often than not. I felt like we had a good case, but when you sit there for two and a half hours listening to them say you’re not very good, it’s hard to feel very confident about it.

“It wasn’t fun, but I went in there expecting it to be worse. I actually got to talk to Gord [Ash, Milwaukee’s assistant GM] right before it and he was very genuine when he said that regardless of what happened, I’m still the right fielder and they want me to have a good season. This was just business.”

Well, it’s easy to be kind when you win.

So what does this mean for the Chicago Cubs and Ryan Theriot?

I wouldn’t read too much into the decision here, as all of the arbitrations are independent, and we have no way of know what actually convinced the arbitrator that Hart was worth $4.8 million. The Cubs have a very good case for why Ryan Theriot, in his first year of arbitration, is not worth $3.4 million – he’s been average or below average offensively for a couple of his seasons, he regressed badly last year, he’s nothing special defensively.

Of course, that sounds very similar to the case the Brewers had against Hart.

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