The Cubs had seven players eligible for arbitration for 2016. Last week, six of them signed one-year deals.
That's everyone but Jake Arrieta, and perhaps that's not surprising given his fantastic Cy Young season last year.
The Cubs submitted a 2016 offer to Arrieta of $7.5 million, and Jake and agent Scott Boras submitted a request for $13 million. That seems quite a distance apart, especially since Jake made $3.63 million in 2015.
ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers has an excellent breakdown of how the process works and what Jake is likely going to wind up making, and I thought I'd go through some of Rogers' points here.
There are two key points to remember: By rule an arbiter can only choose the salary submitted by the team or the one by the player. He can’t split the difference. And the sides can still negotiate all the way up until the hearing -- that’s for a one-year deal or a long-term commitment.
The only "splitting the difference" could come from the team and the player meeting somewhere around the midpoint. And Rogers' point about negotiating all the way up to the hearing is salient, as the Cubs and Pedro Strop appeared headed to a hearing last year, only to settle just before the hearing began. This year's hearing dates are February 1 through 21, though no specific date for Jake has yet been set.
Regarding the huge difference between the offer and the request, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein noted that there's a good reason for that.
That's a large gap but as Epstein noted the numbers are used strategically, not as offers. In other words, in negotiations with Arrieta before Friday the Cubs undoubtedly offered in the $10 million range, but in order to find a middle ground the sides submit more extreme figures to get the process moving. "The filing numbers aren’t offers, they’re filing numbers used to either create a hearing ... or more likely a settlement," Epstein said. "These numbers provide room for a settlement."
And a settlement is likely to happen, according to Jesse Rogers:
On the surface you might think it would be a good idea for Arrieta to become the first player since Epstein took over to have an arbitration hearing, considering he pitched more like a $13 million player than a $7.5 million one in 2015. Common sense would tell you that. But it’s more complicated than that, because an arbiter isn’t necessarily deciding between $7.5 million and $13 million. The arbiter only has to decide if Arrieta deserves one penny more or less than the midpoint between the two figures, which is $10.25 million. If the arbiter thinks Arrieta should get, say, $10 million then he/she will rule in favor of the team and he’ll receive $7.5 million. If the arbiter believes Arrieta deserves closer to $11 million, then he/she will rule in favor of Arrieta and he'll receive $13 million. And as agents will tell you, arbiters are as unpredictable as juries in a trial. Arrieta’s strategy should be to settle.
So you can see the point of the Cubs offering $7.5 million. It's not that the Cubs think Arrieta is worth $7.5 million -- they were likely offering more than that in discussions with Jake before the arb numbers had to be submitted, but less than the $13 million Boras wants. The $7.5 million figure is a hint to the player that he should continue to negotiate so as to not take the chance in a hearing that an arbitrator would award him the lower figure.
Jesse Rogers concludes by saying that the Cubs and Arrieta will likely settle for a figure somewhere around $11 million. I tend to agree. Do you?