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Today’s the day of Matt Garza’s arbitration hearing.

I’m holding out hope that we get word of a last-minute settlement, otherwise, the two sides will hunker down in front of a panel of three arbitrators at some point today – probably late in the morning – and offer their best arguments against each other’s proposed figure for Garza’s 2012 salary ($12.5 million or $7.95 million). Should it come to that, I cannot underemphasize how important that hearing is to the future of the Cubs.

I know it may seem dramatic to say that, but consider the following:

(1) The near $5 million difference could significantly impact the Cubs’ 2012 budget, and could theoretically harm the Cubs’ efforts to sign guys like Yoenis Cespedes or Jorge Soler.

(2) Whatever Garza makes in 2012 will directly impact what he makes in 2013, the Cubs’ final year of control of Garza. If he gets $12.5 million this year, he could be looking at $15 million next year. If he gets $7.95 million, he could wind up closer to $11 million next year, even if he kills it in 2012. That’s a nearly $9 million total difference over the two years. It could be even more.

(3) Whatever Garza makes in 2012 will directly impact any extension discussions. If Garza gets $12.5 million in 2012, his price tag over the next five years or so will rise dramatically. Perhaps so much so that an extension is no longer in the cards at all.

(4) Garza at $7.95 million in 2012 is suddenly, perhaps, one of the most attractive trade candidates in recent memory. The Cubs wouldn’t have to trade him, having picked up new leverage in extension discussions, but man-oh-man would his value increase.

I’m sure there are a number of additional known and unknown consequences that could stem from the result of a hearing, should one happen.

In short: this is very, very important.

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