On Tuesday afternoon, the Major League Players Association announced that 146 players filed for salary arbitration over disputed contract negotiations. The arbitration process is set up by the league to allow players the opportunity to have a third-party arbitration group, made up of a three member committee, come to terms on a contract disputes between a player and their team. This practice is reserved for players who are early in their careers – less than three years in the majors and no more than the six, to file for free agency.
These players are still under the control of their team, but their contracts are determined by their performance last season and are paid similar to other players around the league, who have produced similar numbers. Among the big names to do so include pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Aroldis Chapman, and David Price along with big hitters Giancarlo Stanton, Freddie Freeman, David Freese, Jason Heyward, and Mark Trumbo.
In the mix of the nearly 150 players with disputed contracts, the Cubs had eight players file for arbitration that included pitchers Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, James Russell, and Pedro Strop, along with infielders Darwin Barney, Luis Valbuena, and outfielders Nate Schierholtz and Justin Ruggiano. Contract figures will be exchanged between the Cubs and the eight players on Friday. If no contract agreement is met before Friday, the arbitration process will begin February 1st and go through the 21st, a full week after pitchers and catchers are set to report to spring workouts.
The big story for the Cubs is going to be structuring Samardzija and Wood’s contract so that both teams can proceed forward into their rebuilding process while having the presence of veterans to lead their pitching staff. The right-handed Samardzija made 2.64 million last season and was projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to make up to 4.9 million for 2014. Travis Wood, by all accounts, had a breakthrough season last year and posted career highs in both starts and innings pitched. The left-hander, who went 9-12 last season with 11 no-decisions, earned $527, 500 for 2013, but is projected to have a salary increase of just over 3 million for 2014.
Cubs second baseman, and 2012 Gold Glove winner, Darwin Barney made $562, 000 last season and is projected to make just north of 2 million for 2014. The second largest contract expected to come out of arbitration is for outfielder Nate Schierholtz, who made 2.25 million in his first season on the North Side. The outfielder produced all season long for the Cubs and had personal bests in home runs, doubles, RBIs, and at-bats. According to MLBTradeRumors.com, Schierholtz is projected to earn 4.4 million this upcoming season.
The other players that filed for arbitration are expected to receive minimal pay raises that would bring all the young players to just over million for 2014. Possibly the most important of those is James Russell, who made 1.075 million in 2013 and is expected to earn 1.7 million this season. Russell gives the Cubs depth in their bullpen and provides another much needed left-handed arm for a bullpen that ranked 25th last season (according to espn.com).
It seems as though the Cubs will focus their efforts on locking up Samardzija and Wood for the foreseeable future as they provide security at the top of the rotation. Schierholtz is a nice utility man for new Cubs skipper Rick Renteria as he can play a number of positions in the outfield. At the very least, Schierholtz provides the Cubs with a great trade piece for the July deadline if they choose to go that route. The rest of the players that filed for arbitration are likely to be brought back to the team in order to fill out the opening day roster. But the team continues to build around young talent and 2014 expects to be a year where many of those players get their first shot in the majors.