The Chicago Cubs have two unsigned arbitration-eligible players remaining, Darwin Barney and Jeff Samardzija. While the former has gone largely undiscussed so far this arbitration season, the latter is drawing understandably considerable attention. The split between Barney’s ask ($2.8 million) and offer ($1.8 million) is not particularly large, and his long-term role on the Cubs is in doubt. The split between Samardzija’s ask ($6.2 million) and offer ($4.4 million) is considerable, and there is a clear desire by both sides to be together for many more years – if the money makes sense for both sides. That’s why this arbitration seems to take on an additional layer of interest, and why it seems all the more important that an agreement is reached in advance of having to actually arbitrate.
On that point, Bruce Levine reports that an arbitration date has been set for the Cubs and Samardzija: February 10, which is a week from today.
Perhaps having a date approaching will be what it takes to get a deal done. This front office doesn’t generally go to arbitration, and recall that they settled with Matt Garza on the eve of his arbitration two years ago.
For his part, on Friday, Samardzija described the negotiations as a “process” in an interview with McNeil and Speigel on the Score. He said everyone is on good terms, and the sides are talking “all the time.”
On those negotiations, I was surprised at the volume of folks who saw the reported $100,000 gap in negotiations and ripped the Cubs for being cheap and not getting a deal done.
Setting aside the fact that this was just one report, and also setting aside the fact that $100,000 isn’t nothing (and translates to an additional $200,000 to $300,000 next year in Samardzija’s final arbitration turn), we have no idea how the negotiations are going. That the sides haven’t yet agreed doesn’t mean things are ugly, or that each side really is digging in over $100,000. For all we know, this is simply a product of how the negotiation has proceeded (“If you come up $X, we’ll come down $Y,” and the sides keep squeezing to the middle), and everyone understands and accepts that it’s just a process (as Samardzija, himself, implied). There could also be matters of incentives, bonuses, options, etc. being negotiated at the same time, so, while the two sides might technically be “just” $100,000 apart, there could be other matters holding things up, as well.
And, hey, maybe each side is keeping negotiations open for as long as possible on the slim chance that a long-term agreement can be reached.
While that definitely isn’t likely, what remains very likely is that the two sides will agree to a deal for 2014 before the arbitration hearing next week.