Today is arbitration figures exchange day, which means arbitration-eligible players are to submit their requested salary for 2022, while teams are to submit their own requested salary for the player. If there is no agreement, the sides proceed to an arbitration hearing.
Last year, Ian Happ and the Cubs went to one of those arbitration hearing (which Happ won), but this year they settle:
Source: Ian Happ, Cubs settle at $6.85 million, avoiding arbitration.
— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) March 22, 2022
Happ gets a nice bump from last year’s $4.1 million salary, not solely based on his 2021 season (it’s a whole body of work kind of thing, as well as the increase in service time). Big picture, $6.85 million is a rather reasonable sum for a bat of Happ’s upside (yup, still riding that train), and he comes with one more year of team control after this season. Here’s hoping this is the year when Happ’s productive streak lasts most of the season, because when he’s good, he’s EXTREMELY good.
Because of the lockout, hearings are going to bleed into the regular season (as weird as that is). The Cubs had become a file-and-trial team in recent years (as basically all teams had become), which meant if you reached the point of exchanging numbers, that was that on negotiations, and the case was going to arbitration. We’ll see if that stays the case this year, given the extremely abbreviated timeline in which to come to an agreement to avoid arbitration. I wouldn’t be shocked if there are more post-exchange settlements this year than in recent years.
Now we’re just waiting on Willson Contreras, who is heading into his final year of arbitration (and then free agency).
Cubs catcher Willson Contreras won’t be settling on a contract for 2022 today. The two sides will go to a hearing, per source.
— Jesse Rogers (@JesseRogersESPN) March 22, 2022
We’ll get each side’s offer soon enough, but I’m gonna tell you, this is a terrible outcome. It means an extension is all the more unlikely (if they truly proceed to an arbitration, it might not be for weeks and weeks, at which point you’re simply not going to figure out a multi-year extension for a guy who is going to hit free agency (I mean, it does happen sometimes, but it’s exceedingly rare)). It also means a trade before the season – if you liked that as an alternative to Contreras simply walking – is also pretty much off the table. Teams don’t want to acquire guys that have a pending arbitration case, because it throws their budget for a loop (and they also have to pull off a case on a player they weren’t preparing for).
So, as we discussed yesterday, the most likely outcome now looks like this: the Cubs get into July with Contreras as the catcher, and they re-assess their situation. If they’re out of it, they might trade Contreras (but that’s super hard to pull off for meaningful value at the Trade Deadline with a starting catcher). If they’re not, or if they can’t trade him, he’ll simply walk at the end of the year. The worst of all possible outcomes.
We don’t know what has gone on in the negotiations on the 2022 deal, and we don’t know the true state of organizational evaluation and trade talks and whatever. But this just seems like a bad, bad outcome. *Maybe* the sides will surprise us and keep negotiating and get a deal done sooner rather than later. But that’s a very slim maybe.
UPDATE 2: It’s not a tiny margin between the numbers, but it’s a gap that would’ve been worth bridging:
Wilson Contreras filed for $10.25M, while the Cubs countered at $9M.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) March 23, 2022