Cubs Avoid Arbitration with Valbuena, Schierholtz, Russell, Strop (Plus Filing Numbers)

contractToday is the deadline for arbitration-eligible players to agree to terms on a deal for 2014 before having to exchange salary requests at the end of the day today. Teams can still agree to a deal with their arbitration-eligible players after that point, but it’s nice to get a deal in place before having to put your numbers out there.

I expect we’ll learn of several deals among the Cubs’ eight remaining arbitration-eligible players throughout the day. The Cubs’ arbitration-eligible players are Jeff Samardzija, Nate Schierholtz, Travis Wood, James Russell, Luis Valbuena, Pedro Strop, Donnie Murphy, Darwin Barney, Justin Ruggiano, and George Kottaras. The Cubs have already agreed to terms with Murphy and Kottaras for 2014.

This morning, Joel Sherman reports that the Cubs also have agreed to a one-year deal with Luis Valbuena worth $1.71 million. Valbuena, 28, was in his second year of arbitration after making $930,000 as a Super Two last year. Valbuena split time at third base last year, performing very well defensively, and just a bit below average with the bat (.218/.331/.378 and .315 wOBA). Take it together, and he was worth 2.0 WAR over his 391 plate appearances. Not too shabby for a guy who also offers the ability to cover second base, depending on what happens with Darwin Barney. The expectation now is that Valbuena will either be the left-handed part of a platoon at third base (if Mike Olt doesn’t win the starting job outright), or an above-average utility player. With two years of arbitration left and the modest $1.71 million salary, Valbuena remains a valuable piece (one that the Cubs picked up off of the scrap heap in Spring 2012, you might recall). He will also lead the league in gloriously unnecessary bat flips.

UPDATE: And Nate Schierholtz has also agreed to a deal, per Jerry Crasnick. He’ll get $5 million in his final year of arbitration after a very solid campaign in 2013 for the Cubs, in which he made $2.25 million. Schierholtz is expected to be the semi-regular right fielder next year, though he may be platooned against lefties.

UPDATE: Joel Sherman reports on Twitter that the Cubs have a deal with James Russell for $1.775 million.

UPDATE: Mark Gonzales tweeted that Theo Epstein says a deal is done with Pedro Strop as well. One year, $1.325 million.

UPDATE: Per multiple tweets, the requested/offered filing numbers: Samardzija – $6.2M/$4.4; Wood – $4.25M/$3.5M; Barney – $2.8M/$1.8M; Ruggiano – $2.45M/$1.6M. More on these soon.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

71 responses to “Cubs Avoid Arbitration with Valbuena, Schierholtz, Russell, Strop (Plus Filing Numbers)”

  1. Blackhawks1963

    I like Luis Valbuena. His best usage would be as a solid utility infielder who could pitch in at 3rd base, shortstop, 2nd base. I assume he will be the Cubs starting 3rd baseman to start the season unless / until Mike Olt proves he is ready for a big league audition.

    Valbuena is good in my book.

    1. MattyNomad

      and lets not forget….Dat bat-flip!url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=TdAArWn3ksW3TM&tbnid=hsKMmU_MmkHe1M:&ved=0CAUQjRw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.obstructedview.net%2Fcommentary-and-analysis%2Fluis-valbuenas-2013-season.html&ei=vm_ZUufRBceEyAHTiICoDw&bvm=bv.59568121,d.aWc&psig=AFQjCNFzVwPNIAGf5D-sxnqahpRKQasu_Q&ust=1390067828443864

  2. jp3

    I like that we’re looking ready to go Olt or let whomever keep it warm for a Bryant/Baez/Villinueva arrival fairly soon. Not to open the season but probably by mid season at least.

    1. nate1m

      Are you sure that’s the plan? Olt could prove to be the 3B of the future. He was a top 50 prospect not that long ago. I always thought he was supposed to be outstanding defensively and have the power for his bat to play at third. Am I wrong? Maybe he can push Baez to second or left field. (Not saying this is likely but possible)

      1. jp3

        Oh no I was simply saying I like the FO is going to give Olt the first crack at the position and if he doesn’t stick they have a bevy of options coming up by years end. Best case scenario is he tears the cover off the ball then we have a classy problem as they say. I agree about Baez, I think his bat lets him play anywhere and his glove is more than adequate at a few places on the field.

        1. nate1m

          I actually kind of worry about him at SS. People think he’s the answer to Castro’s mental lapses but I don’t think he has the range of Castro and he had a ton of errors last year. I’m not saying he can’t play SS and I like that they have him there now because if they decide to trade him (because not all of these guys are gonna work and if you think he’s not, sell high) then he has the most value if he can play SS

          1. Noah_I

            You shouldn’t really pay attention to error totals in the minors, the reports are a lot more important. From what I’ve heard Baez definitely has the arm and his range is at least average, but he has rushed some plays and throws. I know at least Keith Law thinks he should play shortstop over Castro when he is ready, but I know that others think it’s still questionable if he’ll stick at the position.

            1. willis

              Olt pushing Baez to 2nd instead of 3B would be an awesome thing. You then have an infield full of pop with the slightest of those bats being a 12-15 HR, 35-40 doubles hitter.

              But Olt has to prove it this spring. Otherwise it’ll be another Valbuena/Murphy platoon with our favorite Barney playing 2nd. Barf.

  3. blublud

    As a guy who originally thought Valbuena sucked, I’m glad he is on our team. Good or bad team, every team needs a guy like that.

  4. BarryLB

    Get rid of Barney. A platoon of Valbuena/Murphy works for me at 2nd.

    1. Adventurecizin Justin

      That’s my hope, also. With the amount of pitches Valbuena sees per PA & his good OBP, I’d consuder him for the leadoff spot, too.

      1. Edwin

        I’d just be leary about giving that many at bats to a player who is a below average hitter, at best.

        I think he works fine as a bench player, and in the short term as a guy who can platoon at 3B or 2B until some prospects start getting called up.

        1. CubFan Paul

          below average runner also. I’d rather Valbuenas good at-bats come off the bench as a weapon.

          Less at-bats for him, in favorable situations would give him a better line than last year’s 220/.330/.380 line

          1. Adventurecizin Justin

            I think we all want him to become a bench player sooner rather than later!

            For now, I’d rather see his name in the lineup rather than Barney’s.

        2. Adventurecizin Justin

          I agree, Edwin. My suggestion was basically for early ’14. I hope our young guys make Valbuena’s days as a starter very temporary.

          In the meantime, our weakish offense needs his OBP at or near the top! Plus, he sees a ton of pitches…quite beneficial, imo.

          1. CubFan Paul

            Valbuena has been tried at leadoff before, even last year.

            1. Adventurecizin Justin

              If Olt takes 3rd out of the gates, who do you think would take 2B? If it is Valbuena, where would he make the most sense in the lineup?

              1. nate1m

                It’s still Barney. You have to give him a shot with that defense and his low BABIP last year suggest a possible rebound with the bat (of course its only to adequate).

              2. Edwin

                I’d say a Valbuena/Barney platoon. Ideally Valbuena would be somewhere in the 6-8 range in a lineup, but with the Cubs lineup, who knows.

    2. Smitty

      Everybody keeps saying get rid of Barney.
      How much is he going to get paid this year?

      He is a valuable defensive replacement. Let him do that and actually give Castro a game off every week or 2.

      1. Voice of Reason

        Barney sucks.

        Sure he has a gold glove, but his horrific hitting makes him darn near impossible to keep in the roster. And, that’s saying something for this team!

        1. dw8

          or above replacement level, even with a .222 BABIP.

  5. Jim

    What the WAR/bat flip ratio??

    1. mjhurdle

      ha, well played :)

  6. ColoCubFan

    Regarding the bat flip thing, maybe it’s a habit, maybe it’s something he developed into a habit. I had a nasty habit of releasing the bat at the end of my swing, and nailed a couple of catchers who didn’t appreciate it. I couldn’t blame them, and I developed the habit of carrying the bat about 4-5 steps down the first base line. It didn’t slow me down, as I had blazing catcher/right tackle speed!

  7. V23

    There is so much media about “Clark” and other stuff, why aren’t there any reports on Olt? Is the vision thing cleared up? I would think that’s something you could figure out in an offseason …if it’s cleared up or not.

    If Olt starts, then Valbuena should get bulk at 2nb….of course unless Alcantra is ready. Done with the Barney bat in a weak lineup.

    1. Jr 25

      Olt is off the meds for his eye. He had minor tear duct surgery and than LASIK. He says all is good, let’s hope so and he returns to his old form

      1. cubzfan

        Could you share your source for this? I thought it odd that in the prospect piece linked on this site recently, all it referenced is that he “got some drops” for his eyes. That seemed like very stale news, and I too thought he was off the drops.

        1. Xruben31

          I heard this too.

  8. woody

    Valbuena is a guy that I viewed with scepticism initially, but I have come to like him a lot. Exactly the kind of guy the club house needs with ll these young players coming up.

    1. Voice of Reason

      Why, of all people, is Valbuena the “kind of guy the club house needs with all these young players coming up.”

      Valbuena is a utility infielder at best. He is probably the second utility infielder coming off the bench for a good team. For the Cubs, he gets to start. He isn’t good. He is below average. He is filling a spot until a kid is ready.

      I don’t get the Valbuena love?

      1. npnovak

        probably b/c there isn’t a whole lot on the big league roster to love, so ppl are turning to guys like Valbuena.

        But I totally agree with you, he is a bench player on a playoff team at best.

      2. Isaac

        I agree, VOR…too much love. He’s the 24th or 25th guy on a contending roster.

  9. mike

    Really think Valbuena’s undervalued by Cubs fans. As long as he doesn’t get too expensive, I love having him on the roster.

  10. NorthSideIrish

    If you’re into the chat thing and don’t mind Swayze references, Professor Parks is going right now on BP…

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/chat/chat.php?chatId=1112

    3 Cubs questions in the first 6…including this:

    “Kevin (Florida): How good can Javier Baez be in his prime and do you think he gets called up at some point this year?

    Jason Parks: One front office source told me that thinks Baez has hall of fame potential. No don’t go crazy with one projection, but if you really believe in the bat–meaning you think he will reach his offensive projections–35+ home runs is possible, all from a left-side of the diamond home. This is an extreme opinion, but not all that crazy when it comes to potential. Javier Baez could have a very special bat; the hand/eye, the bat speed, the raw strength are elite. If he puts it all together, he could be one of the best players in the game. If he stays healthy and consistent once he achieves that level, the hyperbole and hype of the present won’t seem so crazy.”

    1. ari gold

      Jason Parks hit the nail on the head with Bryant:

      The playable power is obviously legit; could play to plus-plus, which means he could hit 35 bombs. But I think the swing and miss will be a bigger issue than some are suggesting, and that could limit some of the power. At the end of the day, I think he’s a first-division right fielder with several all-star level seasons on the resume. I expect a lot of power but not a high average.

      We have quite a few guys that are going to have big time power but big time strikeout issues. That’s why it’s nice to have guy’s like Almora and Candelario.

  11. Idaho Razorback

    Good deal in signing Valbuena for 1.71 million. Didn’t we pay Ian Stewart 2.1 million last year?

  12. Fastball

    I am willing to give Barney a look in ST. As far as I am concerned he was affected by the same problems as Castro and Rizzo. Will he be a great offensive member of this lineup. Probably not. But he is probably the best defensive player on this team. He wasn’t really that much worse than Valbuena with the bat. He gots a chance to redeem himself just like Castro and Rizzo imo. If he doesn’t show improvement offensively then we should make a wholesale change at 2b with Watkins and or Valbuena and Murphy. I’m not throwing the baby out with the bath water. Especially after the goat rodeo that was going on with Sveum and Rowson and who knows whom else was screwing these guys up last season. If we are going to give Castro and Rizzo some benefit of the doubt then Barney needs to be included with that process.

    1. willis

      I really, really like the term goat rodeo. I’m stealing it.

    2. josh ruiter

      Except for the fact that Castro and Rizzo have a track record of success and tools on the offensive side. That is something that cannot be said for Barney. He has always been and will always be an extremely light hitting, extremely good defender. Someone to be hidden in a deep lineup and devastating in any other lineup, including the Cubs.

  13. Noah_I

    I actually expect Valbuena to get the majority of starts against RHPs at 2B if Olt starts the season in the Big Leagues, with Barney starting against LHPs.

    1. half_full_beer_mug

      Maybe we could call that something special…………maybe a platoon?

  14. Serious Cubs Fan

    Random Question: Anyone know when the Ricketts complicated structure of paying off the debt of the Cubs will be finished? Supposedly that is what holding the FO back from fully being able to make the moves they’ve wanted to make (Cespedes, Darvish). I know the MLB is a private enterprise and don’t have to reveal their books to the public so no one really knows, but I was wondering if there was any rumors as to when they will be completely paid off the debt and the restrictions on the big league payroll will be lifted.

    I know our finances are more linked to the renovations/TV deal but I clearly think the debt structure of the purchase of the cubs has a sizable affect on our payroll situation currently

    1. fortyonenorth

      Just repeating what I’ve read: ten years from the date of “purchase” or whenever the IRS rules the structure of the deal was illicit–whichever comes first.

      1. Serious Cubs Fan

        Ouch. So Ricketts purchased the team in 2009, so in 2019 the debt will be paid off….. Very strange sale, but I get why the Tribune sold the team the way they did because essentially they get avoid taxes on the purchase with the way the team was sold.

  15. scorecardpaul

    I don’t want to be that guy, but I don’t think any people outside of the team have any clue of any details with the finances of the sale. I tend to think the supposed sale restrictions have just been an excuse for not spending money. I think financial monetary restrictions tied to the sale are easier for the fan base to take than simply coming out and saying something like….
    Hey we suck, but we have great prospects coming up. We are saving our money until they are up, and that also gets us better draft picks until we are good. Not wasting our money now, not only doesn’t block a spot on the team for the better players when they are ready, but it also gives us more money to spend when we are ready to spend. So, while we wait we save our money, continue to get better draft picks , don’t block any yet unknown youth, and have the extra money to spend when we are ready and have a clearer idea of what we need to spend our money on. Stick with us, we will be bad for a while, but it will be worth the wait.
    I just think it is easier to start rumors that our hands are tied because of certain financial things that happened in the sale. I for one am completely on board with the plan, and would be fine either way they tried to sell it. I just don’t think a lot of fans would see it that way.

    1. half_full_beer_mug

      It’s also easier than to admit that Theo and Jed may not want to spend big money right now either. It’s easier to blame Ricketts or Zell than to assign any blame to the super smart FO duo (or trio if you prefer)

  16. Fastball

    didn’t Barney hit something .270 his first season with the Cubs at 2b. That was Castro’s 1st season as well. In fact he wasn’t really all that bad coming up through the system according to FG. Yes… That’s Right I did go to FG. They had a welcoming ceremony for me as I entered their website. LOL … My point is… Until Mike Quade and Dale Sveum came along Barney wasn’t as dorked up as everyone thinks. I think after a while he got so focused on his defense he just tuned out all the noise from Quade, Sveum and Rowson and whomever. I know a lot of the people on here only care about offense. Barney saved the Cubs a lot of embarrassment because of his defense. His defense doesn’t grow on trees. I always say be careful what you wish for cuz we don’t really know if Valbuena can run down pop flys in short right center to right field and in foul territory or glove ground balls like Barney can. I tell you what if I’m a pitcher I want every guy I face to hit a ball toward Barney because he is gonna make me look good.

    1. cooter

      I agree. I also remember in the beginning of 2012 he had a ton of doubles. If I remember right when he had 17 no body else even had half and people were still doging him. I think he’s a good ball player and if he doesn’t bounce back at least to 250 by mid season, then I’ll be driving the trade wagon.

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        People dog Barney because he’s got a huge contact zone without having a very big red zone. Sure, he’ll have a flukey month like May 2012 when he hit 10 doubles: but you basically are trying to hope that that one month was the “real” Barney and the other 17 months were the aberrations. (For context, Barney hit 16 doubles in April, June, July, August and September: so, what was “real,” the 5 months of 3+ doubles or the 1 month of 10 doubles?)

        Basically, Barney has been pretty consistent: his extra-base hit frequency, K-frequency and walk-frequency all have been very static over three seasons. His average has dropped because his singles-frequencies have dropped: but that reflects how many poorly-to-moderately-well hit balls get through, and thus fluctuate hugely from one year to the next. However, the XBH and BB frequencies are not good. The 10 doubles in one month was a real shot in the dark: we don’t expect another one of those until 2035 from him!

        1. Jason P

          I agree with you, but one slight correction: Barney’s BB% has actually improved markedly the past 3 seasons — from 3.9% in 2011 to 5.6% in 2012 to 6.5% in 2013.

  17. Fastball

    I don’t blame Ricketts for paying off debt. I hope he is paying it off in 1/3 the time allowed. If I owned this team and I had to assume all of Sam Zells mess. I would cut corners all over the place to get out from under it. Sooner you can get the books clean the better. Wonder how many freaking surprises Ricketts found when he inherited his stadium. The man probably can’t watch HGTV without going into convulsions. Bad plumming and a score board that doesn’t even have light bulb that works. It’s a major rehab and a huge cost overrun project. So now maybe he see’s some light at the end of the tunnel who knows. It just takes some time to fix a FUBAR. Maybe in a couple more years he will be spending like he just got his first tax return.

    1. Sandberg

      I love this post for many reasons.

  18. Babe ruth

    Phew got the last earlier banks autograph spot at the charity room yesssssss

    1. Xruben31

      That’s awesome.

  19. Jason P

    Interesting – there was an article on Cubs Den saying the Cubs are now the odds-on favorite to sign Masahiro Tanaka at 3/2 according to Vegas. The Yankees are just behind at 2/1 and the Dodgers are 5/1.

    1. Matt

      Saw that too, nice report to see, although I won’t be happy until it actually happens (shouldn’t need to say it, but if it happens, of course). Still, hope it winds up being true, we’ll see.

  20. skynetlance

    How is aroldis Chapman able to file for arbitration when he signed a 5 year? or so contract just a couple of years ago? how does that work?

    1. Xruben31

      He, like Jorge Soler, has an opt out clause that let’s him forgo the last 3 years of the contract for arbitration.

      1. skynetlance

        Thank you for that.

  21. 1ski

    Hawk’s win!!!!

    1. Luke

      I immediately thought you meant Boise Hawks and became, briefly, very confused.

      1. Xruben31

        Hey Luke, any chance Eloy Jimenez or Gleyber Torres end up starting off in the Arizona league? Have heard they’re pretty advanced, considering.

        1. Luke

          There is a chance. I don’t know how good of one, but I’ve seen some comments pointing to the idea that the Cubs are considering it.

  22. MichiganGoat

    I know Hendry rarely went to arbitration (Theriot might is the only one I can remember) but what is Epstein’s history with arbitration? The Samardzija case will be interesting. If it goes to arbitration it will tell him, the Cubs, and the market about his value in regard to a contract extension or free agency.

    1. blublud

      Epstein has never went to arbitration. If Shark goes, it’ll be Epstein’s first time.

    2. CubFan Paul

      “If it goes to arbitration..”

      There’s still enough time after Tanaka signs for the pitching dominoes to fall. After Garza, Santana, & Jimenez sign, I believe the Price (owed $18M in 2014!) and Shark market will be clear (willing).

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