Today 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.