So far, the Chicago Cubs have avoided arbitration with all but two of their arbitration-eligible players. Those two are Darwin Barney and Jeff Samardzija, and if the Cubs hope to avoid the ugliness that can attend arbitration hearings, they’ll need to get a move on. Arbitration hearings take place during the first three weeks of February, and today just happens to be the final day of January.*
*(Hearing dates have either not yet been scheduled or not yet released.)
The good news is that the Cubs may be getting closer to avoiding arbitration with Samardzija, at least.
Bruce Levine reports that, although the two sides are “still jousting,” they are just $100,000 apart in negotiations. Presumably that suggests a deal will get done, maybe even on the eve of a hearing – sometimes it just takes that long.
The Samardzija negotiations always figured to take a little longer than the others, given the expanse in what Samardzija requested – $6.2 million – and what the Cubs offered – $4.4 million – as well as the tricky nature of Samardzija’s value. You can’t watch Samardzija pitch without recognizing the front-end stuff, and many of the peripheral stats have been fantastic since he moved to the rotation. But the results haven’t always matched the stuff, and it’s fair debate just how he should be valued going forward.
There’s also the backdrop of the long-term deal possibility, as unlikely as it now seems. The point here is only that the possibility of a long-term deal throws another wrinkle into settling on a one-year deal for 2014. The sides, since they’re negotiating anyway, might as well at least broach those talks again.
Is a long-term deal going to happen this offseason? Probably not. Jesse Rogers writes that Samardzija is looking for a salary approaching what he’d get in free agency in exchange for giving up some of his future free agent years (and signing with a team that doesn’t project to be particularly competitive in the near-term). For the Cubs’ part, that simply tends not to be the way these arbitration extensions work: the idea is that the player takes a discount on the future free agent dollars in exchange for getting the bulk guarantee up front.
As we’ve seen before, the Cubs’ and Samardzija’s perspectives on these issues are misaligned. Samardzija has already made a fair bit of money in his career, and he’s a confident guy who is willing to bet on himself now in the hopes of a much bigger score down the road. The Cubs have an uncertain near-term future, and aren’t going to give up free agent dollars to a guy whom they already control for two years at arbitration prices (and who could be traded for a tremendous return, if the need arose). I understand it from both sides. It’s just one of those things.
For now, hopefully they get that one-year deal worked out, and then we’ll see what happens.