Chicago Cubs: Key deals before arbitration

Darwin Barney, Juan Pierre


The Chicago Cubs’ mantra consistently seems to be “there’s always next year.”

But the club has sealed several deals the past few weeks, avoiding arbitration disagreements, which could help stop another bust season with these returning players. Below are some of the important moves the Cubs made recently.

1. Darwin Barney

The second basemen avoided arbitration with a one-year, $2.3 million deal Feb.6.  To say his 2013 season was a slump is a bit of an understatement – he batted .208 with seven homeruns and a .569 OPS.  But Barney does have redeeming factors in his defense, as he won a Gold Glove in 2012 and qualified as a finalist last season.

If Barney can take his offense to the next level (and really, there’s no direction left but up), that and his already solid defensive skills will help give the Cubbies more Ws in 2014.

2. Travis Wood

The Cubs will bring pitcher Travis Wood back to the mound, as he signed a one-year $3.9 million deal Jan. 24. Wood produced a good season in 2013, where he maintained a 3.11 ERA in 32 starts. As ESPN reports, Wood “was just 9-12 but had 24 quality starts, fourth-best in the National League.” On top of that, he appeared on the All-Star team’s roster for the first time last season.

Wood has been consistent for the Cubs since joining the club, and the additional year with the team will only help him get better. The Cubs seem to think so, at least: his 2013 salary was $527,500. Talk about a $2.5 million-plus pay raise.

3. Nate Schierholtz

On Jan. 17, Schierholtz signed a one-year, $5 million contract. With trades within the past few seasons of consistent outfielders, the Cubs will benefit from having Schierholtz play another season.  In 2013, Schierholtz set personal bests in home runs (21), doubles (32), at-bats (462) and RBIs.  If the right fielder can capitalize and continue breaking his own records, it may just give Chicago the offensive spark the team needs.

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These three key players, along with relievers Pedro Strop and James Russell, infielder Luis Valbuena and outfielder Justin Ruggiano, all avoided arbitration.  That left pitcher Jeff Samardzija as the only arbitration-eligible player unsigned. Samardzija is asking $6.2 million, while the Cubs are offering $4.4 million. A trial on Monday is scheduled if the pair do not reach an agreement before then.

In 2010, Ryan Theriot was the last Cub to have a hearing, where he lost his $3.4 million bid to the Cub’s $2.6 million offer. Since the current front office took over after the 2011 season, no Cub player has gone to arbitration.

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