Dave van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune passed along news earlier this morning that the Cubs and Geo Soto have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $4.3 million deal for the 2012 season. For those keeping the books at home, the agreement marks a pay raise of $1.3 million for the Cubs starting catcher.
Counting from his rookie season in 2008 on, Soto so far has been noted by Cubs fans and the local media as having a pattern of solid seasons during even numbered years while having drop offs in the odd years. To be fair, his season totals in runs, homers, and RBI are almost identical when comparing 2010 to 2011, but his batting average and more importantly his OPS dropped from 2010. Based on his MLB career history, the Cubs can figure to see their starting catcher boost up his batting average and OPS for 2012 while maintaining almost 20 home run, 60 RBI power production goals.
With the organization overhaul in full effect, including what will most likely be a sacrifice of the 2012 season, it will be interesting to see if Soto remains a Cub beyond the July trade deadline, let alone the 2012 season. Based on how far along gurus Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer feel the team is, in terms of rebuilding, as the season goes along, it would not be out of the question to see what the trade market value for a starting catcher with power would be. Soto is under team control until 2014, and the expected well rounded offensive year from him in 2012 would only continue to earn him salary bumps going forward.
With some depth behind Soto in prospects Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger, both of whom are on the 40 man roster, the front office could continue toward their master plan of stockpiling talent in the minors by trading the 2008 Rookie of the Year.
While teams around the league making a mad dash to avoid arbitration with their players, the Cubs still have plenty of work left on their plate. Chicago has six remaining players eligible for arbitration, highlighted by ace starter Matt Garza. The list includes recent acquisitions Chris Volstad and Ian Stewart, and the Cubs front office will figure to strike a deal with them soon, considering these players were targeted in trades by the team.