The Chicago Cubs have made a conscious effort to not let arbitration cases go to hearing. It’s not a pretty situation, and there really are no winners. The last time the Cubs had a case go to hearing was 2010, with Ryan Theriot and Jim Hendry. Theriot’s numbers had been on the decline since 2008, and rumor was the Cubs weren’t happy he took them to hearing. He was traded mid-year to the Dodgers, as Starlin Castro made his debut. Likely not coincidence though that he was dealt.
In 2014, Strop made $1,325,000, and has asked for $3 million. The Cubs initial offer was $2 million. Generally, this is where the player and the team meet in the middle and avoid the hearing. But the two sides are yet to reach an agreement. Although, even once the hearing is scheduled, talks can continue to try to work a deal.
Where things get tricky are within the hearing. The two sides sit down with an arbitrator, each “selling” why their figure is the right one. So the Cubs, who clearly want to pay less than Strop is asking, will need to highlight his “faults” in order to win the judgement.
Strop had a good season in 2014, with a 2.21 ERA and a 1.066 WHIP in 65 appearances. But the result will still be an unfavorable one if the teams go to hearing. Should that happen, could the Theriot incident play out again? How much animosity will there be?
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Whether it was intentional or not, the Cubs do have a contingency plan. The signing of Jason Motte could play very well for them, should things turn sour in the relationship with Strop. It’s not a guarantee that it will, or that they will even make it to the hearing. But with so many unknowns in the game, it’s best to be prepared.
Motte is now two-years removed from surgery, and the Cubs believe he can return to the form he held as the St. Louis Cardinals closer in 2012 when he led the National League in saves with 42. With Joe Maddon‘s use of sabermetrics, defined roles in the bullpen may not be as clear, but having somewhat like Motte for late-inning situations will be a big addition for the Cubs.
This is all speculation, and I hope that Strop and the Cubs can come to an agreement before any of these theories become applicable. Maddon is known as a players manager, so if there is any “hard feelings”, he may be the perfect man to diffuse all that and put a unified team on the field.