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.

  • Lance

    I just don’t understand why anyone cares about this arbitration case. I understand (I guess) the Theriot hatred, but with all of the money that Jimbo has blown over the past few years, what’s another couple of hundred thou for Theriot? He’s just trying to get as much as he possibly can, and there’s no downside for the player. He’s either going to get what he was offered or more–not less. What would make arbitration more interesting would be for there to be a result outside of the parameters

    • Ace

      I think folks care because, given how tight the Cubs have been with their budget this year, a $1 million difference is a big deal with respect to whether the Cubs will be able to add – either in camp or at the deadline. It also impacts whether Theriot has a future with the Cubs – an extra $1 million this year becomes an extra $1.2 million or so next year.

      • Aisle 424

        Also, overpriced contracts are harder to move for value. Theriot is one of the few Cubs that could realistically be traded for something useful (either this year or next) if/when Castro kicks down the door to the major league roster.

        • Ace

          Very good point, though it’s hard to picture the Cubs not wedding themselves to Theriot at second base if Castro takes over at short. They just love him that much. Plus, not sure who in the system would push him off second in the next two years (i.e., before he’s a free agent).