That Was A Close One

Zambrano_8 Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs were able to avoid an arbitration hearing by striking a one-year, $12.4 million deal just minutes before they were set to go to an arbitration hearing.  He would also earn bonuses for finishing among the top five in Cy Young Award voting, being named MVP of the World Series and League Championship Series, making the All-Star game, and winning the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger award.The deal was$ 1 million shy of the midpoint of the numbers they exchanged at arbitration, Zambrano’s $15.5 million and the Cubs’ $11.025 million.  How close was Zambrano to being the first Cubs to go before arbitration since 1993?  Close enought that Cubs general manager Jim Hendry and Zambrano’s agent, Barry Praver, were walking toward the hearing room in the Phoenix Hyatt, and decided they were close enough to skip the session, which was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. MST.

"We hadn’t walked actually in [the room] yet, but we were getting close to it," Praver said.

"Barry and I agreed, they couldn’t start without us," Hendry said.

So what was this all about.  Are you telling me it took until the last minute to come up with a deal like this that made sense?

"We got to the point today where it was getting close," Hendry said. "There wasn’t any intentional bluffing by anybody. I don’t think there was a gap like that in the history of arbitration that I know of. It was one of those where it took awhile to get to the right level where everybody was comfortable."

OK, maybe there was a little bluffing.  Now the trick for the Cubs and Zambrano is to work out a long term deal.  The Cubs are looking for a five-year, $73 million deal Roy Oswalt received from Houston last summer, while Zambrano brings up Zito and his $18 million per year contract.

Hendry claims that

"There wasn’t going to be any tearing down of Carlos Zambrano because, first of all, he’s our best pitcher," he said. "I’ve got nothing bad to say to him. All I want him to do is win more games than he won last year. … The person who was going to present our case had been told by me that was the way it was going to be."

Really Jim, you wanted Carlos to win more games.  That was your strategy for winning the arbitration case?  Then why did you put such a terrible team around Zambrano_home_run_2 him last year?  With virtually no offense, no defense, and a pathetic manager, this guy won 16 games on a team that lost 96 games.  This despite the fact that he won the most games, pitched the most innings, had the most strike outs, and had the lowest era out of all your starters.  Not to mention the fact that he was tied for the fifth most home runs on your team.  The Cubs were outhomered by the opposition at home, had the worst on base percentage, and drew the fewest walks.  Put Zambrano on any team with talent last year, and he wins over 20 games. 

Zambrano’s agent, Barry Praver wants the extention done before opening day.  "Like ‘Z’ said, the goal is [that] this needs to get done before Opening Daybecause he doesn’t want it to become a distraction" .

And Mr. Z?

"Something can happen after the season — why not? I want to stay with the Cubs, and I want to be part of the Cubs when they win the championship. I want to be here, that’s the bottom line."

Sounds good to me.

Jim, get out the checkbook.

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