The month of February does not only signal the beginning of Spring Training for Major League Baseball. The month holds much more significance than the fact that Major League teams begin practicing again. Rather, February is the month where arbitration process is in full affect for Major League Baseball. Consequently, February is also the time when the final projections come regarding the Major League team’s payroll for the upcoming season. Cubs’ fans may not be too familiar with the arbitration process, considering former General Manager Jim Hendry was notorious for avoiding arbitration hearings. The only arbitration case that went to a hearing under the Hendry regime was Ryan Theriot‘s prior to the 2010 season. The fall-out from the hearing appeared to create a disconnect between Theriot and the organization, which could be the reason why Theriot was traded during the 2010 season.
With new President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer in control of the baseball department, the pair of executives keep up Hendry’s track record of avoiding hearings?
Entering the day, the Cubs had seven players that were eligible for arbitration. Catcher Geovany Soto, infielders Jeff Baker, Blake DeWitt, Ian Stewart, and starting pitchers Chris Volstad, Randy Wells, and Matt Garza are were in line to receive some type of pay increase for the 2012 season. As Joe reported on Cubbies Crib earlier today, the Cubs and Soto came to an agreement on one year deal worth 4.3 million. To add to Joe’s report, I too believe that Soto is a legitimate trade candidate. The $4.3 million make Soto an appealing target for any team that is seeking to improve their catcher position.
As it turns out, Soto was not the only player that the Cubs avoided arbitration with. The Cubs have agreed to terms with six of the seven arbitration eligible players on their 25 man roster.
Jeff Baker will make $1,375,000 for the 2012 season. Over the course of the past couple of seasons, Baker has turned into a poor man’s Mark DeRosa for the Cubs. Baker may not be an everyday player, but the veteran utility man still brings much value to the Cubs. Whether trying to improve his trade value or not, the Cubs showed off Baker’s versatility last season by playing the veteran at each of the infield positions with the exception of shortstop, as well as playing Baker in the outfield on a handful of occasions. If Jeff Bianchi and D.J. LeMahieu were both still a part of the Cubs’ organization, I do not think Baker would be returning to the Cubs this season.
Blake DeWitt is set to make $1.1 million for the Cubs’ during the 2012 season. As the case with Baker, if LeMahieu and Bianchi were still in the mix, DeWitt may have been odd man out. Nonetheless, it appears DeWitt will start the 2012 season with the Cubs. DeWitt also showed off his versatility last season with the Cubs as the former Dodger spent time at the second base, third base, and left field positions for the Cubs. DeWitt, and Baker both figure to be trade candidates come July. However, if Darwin Barney struggles to begin the 2012 season, DeWitt may wind up getting more playing time at second base.
Unlike DeWitt and Baker, third baseman Ian Stewart is expected to play a major factor in how the Cubs’ fare during the 2012 season. After trading outfielder Tyler Colvin and LeMahieu to the Rockies in exchange for Stewart, the Cubs labeled the former Rockie as the heir to Aramis Ramirez at the third base position. Stewart and the Cubs agreed to a one year, $2.237,500 deal. Stewart figures to hit in the middle of the Cubs’ lineup, as the organization hopes the 26 year old third baseman can regain the form that saw him hit 25 home runs in 2009.
Starting pitchers Chris Volstad and RAndy Wells also agreed to terms with the Cubs on Tuesday. Volstad, who the Cubs acquired from the Miami Marlins in the Carlos Zambrano trade, will make $2,655,000 in 2012. Volstad figures to be a part of the Cubs’ revamped starting rotation, though the Cubs’ currently have six potential starting pitchers on their pitching staff. Wells rebounded after returning from an injury that sidelined the pitcher for the first two months of the season in 2011. Wells agreed to terms on a $2,705,000 million contract. If Wells continues to progress in the 2012, the pitcher could be a main-stay in the Cubs’ long-term plans.
The only player that the Cubs have yet to avoid arbitration with is starting pitcher Matt Garza. Garza is seeking $12.5 million, and the Cubs countered with a $7.95 million offer. There is still room for the Cubs’ to increase their offer. As I mentioned recently, Garza has similar value to that of Chicago White Sox pitcher John Danks. Danks signed an extension this off-season with the White Sox that will pay the starting pitcher $14.25 million annually beginning in 2013 and lasting through 2016. The difference between Garza and Danks is that Danks is two years younger. In the end, I expect Garza to make around $1o.75 million in 2012. An underlying factor in the Cubs’ negotiations with Garza may be the never-ending trade rumors involving the starting pitcher. Nonetheless, Garza may be heading to arbitration in any event.