Thursday, January 18, 2007

Reversal Of Fortune?

It has only been a year since all of Cubdom was up in arms that Mark Prior might be traded. It didn't matter that in return for Prior, that either Miguel Tejada or Bobby Abreu, two everyday all star caliber players, would've contributed mightily and been a cornerstone of the team for quite some time.

As the Cubs and Prior enter spring training in less than a month, fans have done an about face. Prior has been bashed in the media as being soft and medical reports abound that Prior's shoulder may not even be fixable due to a genetic flaw. Cub's GM Hendry, is following the prevailing winds of public opinion and offering a contract to Prior that is lower than last year's, as he feels justified that the numbers are on his side.

The actual difference in dollars that Prior is asking for and the Cubs are offering is some $500,000. With the money that's being tossed around this off season, the difference appears to be meaningless in the overall scheme of things.

So why are the Cubs offering a contract that in reality can do nothing but breed ill will between Prior and the Cubs?

It appears that Hendry is miscalculating the consequences of what offering a contract, however justified in some people's eyes, lower than last year's to Prior.

Regardless of what the arbitrator's number comes up to be for Prior, the amount of money will be inconsequential, so what's the point? The message being sent to Prior, especially in light of past contracts for the likes of N. Perez and G. Rusch, appears to be a slap in the face.

If Prior pitches this year, it will be because he is healthy. If he is healthy, he'll post solid if not superior numbers compared with most everyday starters. Then, when he becomes eligible for free agency, what incentive will there be for Prior to re-up with the Cubs besides a big fat contract?

I understand like many, that Prior has been a major disappointment and may never be healthy again, but considering Prior's upside and the ill will created by the Cubs offer this year, I see the makings of a disaster down the road that would've been avoided by Hendry, for just a few hundred thousand dollars.

7 comments:

theantigoat said...

I don't get it either. It's not like he's asking for a lot of cash. Before I knew he was only asking for 500k, I ripped him. It was unjustified. I apologize to Prior. I say give him the money, if only to create a good atmosphere going into the season. Why would want to take him to arby and embarass him? 500k is pocket change to the Cubbies.

Clute said...

AG-

Usually when this happens, offering a player a caontract lower thsn the year before, it's usually greasing the skids for the players departure

Maddog said...

Clute,

I know it's common knowledge that arbitration, and the dollar figures exchanged or ultimately granted to the player, often have a significant impact on the player/team's relationship, but is it really true? Out of all the players who go to arbitration each season, how many of them do we hear throughout the season with regards to that player/team having difficulties with one another? I can't think of a single one.

I think this common knowledge that we often discuss (going to arbitration, battling over how much so and so is worth and so on...) is really just a figment of our imagination. I can't find any information that could lead us to believe that players and teams haggling over some money at arbitration have had any impact whatsoever on the future of that player and the team he is on. Instead, what we find is that the player still signs, at the end of his contract, with the team that offers the most money.

I'm sure there are a few instances where things have gotten really bad between the team and the player, but it seems to me that those instances are rather the exception than the rule.

$500,000 isn't much money at all and the two sides will reach an agreement prior to arbitration, but the process and the results of the process have almost no impact on future relations. Furthermore, the team and the player/agent are required to turn over a dollar figure they believe to be fair. They do this in private without any knowledge of the figure being turned in by the team/player. Prior asking for only a $200,000 raise is what's more intriguing than the Cubs offering Prior a pay cut.

Even Prior doesn't believe he's worth much and nowhere near the average amount of increase for a 2nd year arbitration eligible player (contract generally doubles for these players).

What you have here is both the player and the team on the same page. They differ very little in how they value the contributions of Mark Prior. In the end, this will result in Prior being paid almost exactly the same amount that he made last season, which is still two, four, or six times as much as he's worth.

He's also arbitration eligible at the end of the 2007 season and if this issue is at all a determining factor in where the player may eventually end up, next offseason is going to be more important than this one.

The Cubs did the right thing here. Prior needs a slap in the face. Actually, he needs a kick in the nuts, but this will suffice.

Clute said...

Maddog-

I defer to your appraisal that indeed the difference may not contribute to any problems based on previous cases. However, I just believe, without any facts to back me up, that in no way does the fact the Cubs are offering a lower figure than last year, not cause discord in Prior and the Cubs future negotiations.

Maddog said...

I guess I see this differently than you do, Clute. Prior is supposed to be a professional baseball player. As a professional he has an obligation to admit when he has failed. Last year he was just not healthy, he was also pretty bad when he did pitch. Had he been successful in his innings last year, I might agree with you, but he had a miserable season last year. It's both the responsibility of the Cubs and Mark Prior to work with the knowledge that they do have. That knowledge is of a fragile pitcher making fewer and fewer starts and regressing as he's doing it.

Now, honestly, I have no idea what the players feel in these arbitration filings. I'm not one and will never know, but Prior has a degree from a university and has seemed like a rather intelligent individual to me when I've heard him speak. I'm sure he understands where the Cubs are coming from. If I perform terribly on the job I would expect there to be consequences and I'm sure you'd agree with this. Most likely, in the real world, those consequences would be the loss of my job and pay. Prior did not suffer those real world consequences. He's already been granted the fairy-tale story of sports and money. He was offered millions he doesn't deserve to play a game. Surely he's smart enough to understand this.

And even if he does hold a grudge, which I do seriously doubt, the most money at the end of 2008 is what's going to sign him whether with the Cubs or another team.

You make a good point in your article about things like this potentially being a sign of the end being near with that respective team. I think that end is near with Prior. The guy I know who coaches in the Cubs organization told me in December that Hendry will deal Prior first chance he gets. This is a step in the right direction if Hendry so chooses.

Clute said...

Good points Maddog. I'm especially hoping for a healthy return of Prior so if what you say is true about Henry's intentions, we can get some value for him. Although, it will never be anything like when the Phillies will willing to unload Abreu for Prior last year.

Maddog said...

I doubt we'll see any deals take place anytime too soon, but we should remember that the media is an outlet that general managers use to increase value of players. I'm not saying that's what is going on now...I simply don't believe that to be true. I think what the guy I know meant was that he'll trade him as soon as his value is high enough, which may or may not happen anytime soon. Hendry still values Prior, as he should, but I think he's become tired of the same stuff we have and would like the team to be able to be rid of what has become an annual distraction. I took what this guy told me to mean that perhaps by the All-Star break he'd be dealt. My guess is that approximate date depends on whether or not the Cubs are in contention and what they can get for Prior.

One healthy season from him and that value will soar back to the level it once was. I think that's what Hendry is hoping from my understanding, which should be taken with a grain of salt.