In 2010, former Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry tried desperately to reach an agreement with shortstop Ryan Theriot before the two sides were forced to go to an arbitration hearing. Despite Hendry’s track record of never going to a hearing prior to Theriot, the shortstop provided the most difficult task for Hendry in all of his potential arbitration cases. The ending result was Hendry prevailed in the hearing, but the belief was that arguments the Cubs made during the hearing stuck in Theriot’s head. With Theriot feeling a disconnect from the team’s front office, it is no surprise that the Cubs’ shortstop was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with starting pitcher Ted Lilly.
Fast forward to 2012, and starting pitcher Matt Garza was headed down the same path as Theriot. Though, there is no question that Garza handled the situation with much more professionalism than Theriot. Garza has been in an interesting position this off-season. While the Cubs have been listening to offers on Garza from various teams such as the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays, President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein has admitted that the 27 year old starting pitcher is the type of player the Cubs would like to build their starting rotation around for the long-term future.
For that reason, Garza’s arbitration hearing would have been an interesting. Garza requested that the Cubs pay him $12.5 million in 2012, while the Cubs countered with an offer of $7.95 million. Luckily for Epstein and Garza, the two sides will not have to find out which side would have prevailed in the arbitration hearing. On the day of the arbitration hearing, Garza’s agency announced that the Cubs and Garza have avoided arbitration. The Cubs and Garza agreed on a one year deal worth $9.55 million. The deal also included performance-based incentives that would bump up the salary. Unlike what would have happened if the case went to a hearing, the Cubs and Garza essentially found the middle-ground between the two offers. With Garza now signed, the Cubs have avoided arbitration with all of their eligible players. Epstein has never gone to an arbitration hearing.
With Garza’s arbitration case now a thing of the past, this may re-ignite the Garza trade rumors. But it would seem to be more likely–with teams beginning to prepare for Spring Training–that the Cubs and Garza may accelerate their talks on a long-term contract extension. I am starting to get that sense that Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer would rather have Garza a part of the Cubs’ rotation for the long-term, but they would trade him if the right offer comes along. With teams unwilling to make that offer up to this point, it seems that Garza’s and the Cubs’ marriage will continue for at least the start of the 2012 season.