So earlier today, on their way into the salary arbitration hearing room--literally--Cubs GM Jim Hendry and agent Barry Praver agreed on a one-year, $12.4 million deal for Hendry's best pitcher and Praver's best client, Carlos Zambrano.
In the end, Zambrano & Co. came down further then Hendry & Co. came up: the pitcher had been asking for $15.5MM and the Cubs' offer was $11.025MM.
The bottom line is that the Cubs got their best pitcher and Opening Day starter under contract and neither side had to endure the ugliness of an actual hearing in order to get there.
For the record and so there's no doubt after you read the next few grafs, I'm ecstatic Zambrano signed and hopeful it will lead to a long-term deal, even if it is for Barry Zito money, since Zambrano is a much, much better pitcher.
That said, if you've been following this story at all, you've no doubt encountered this factoid multiple times: the Cubs have not gone to salary arbitration with a player since 1993.
I bet I've run into that fact at least five times in five different publications in the last week alone. It seems to me it's usually brought up as proof of some sort that the Cubs are generally square-shooters in their dealings with player agents and/or they appreciate the damage that can be done to a player/club relationship if it's subjected to the sometimes rough and tumble proceedings in an arbitration hearing.
I guess those make sense. Of course, it could also be that the Cubs are saps and are too willing to cough up the extra few mill.
Here's the thing...
Since '93 when the Cubs last took a player to arbitration (note: it was Mark Grace and the Cubs beat him out of $1 million), the Wrigley Boys have a record of 1.049--1,153. That amounts to a .476 winning percentage. They've endured five 90+ loss seasons and enjoyed just one 90+ win season. They've been to the post-season twice, in '98 and '03, winning 6 games and losing 9.
So maybe the Cubs really are square-shooters and they really do take a constructive attitude into contract negotiations with guys they would like to keep around.
Or maybe they're just paying too much money to players--again, Carlos Zambrano excepted--who don't really deserve it.