Chicago Cubs Pitcher
Mark Prior Re-signs
After many trips through the rumor mill, Mark Prior accepted the Chicago
Cubsí offer on January 27 to a one-year, $3.65 million contract. That is
$900,000 more than the salary he would have earned under the contract he
voided in November. Since Prior's definitive season in 2003 (18-6), he
has cooled off somewhat, and has only managed to go 17-11 over the past
The Cubs were within five outs of reaching the World Series in 2003,
due, in part, to Prior's performance. A sore elbow put him on the
disabled list early last season, and when he entered the normal rotation
again, he was hit on the same elbow by a scorching line drive. He
finished the 2005 season going 11-7 with a 3.67 ERA over 27 games.
The Chicago Cubsí pitcher, whose name has been mentioned as possible
trade bait this off-season, said that he was not too upset at the rumors
because he figured they were just that -- rumors.
Rumor had it that
he was going to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for outfielder
Bobby Abreu, but that wasn't to be. During the holidays, he was
supposed to be traded to Baltimore for shortstop Miguel Tejada. That
also did not happen. "It's part of the game," Prior said.
"Obviously, when somebody requests a trade, a team has to look into
it. I don't really validate the rumors a whole lot unless I hear
that '[general manager] Jim Hendry' says or '[team president] Andy
MacPhail says' or '[manager] Dusty [Baker] says' -- otherwise,
they're just rumors. It seems like there are a lot of MLB sources
this year. Unless somebody calls me up and says, 'Hey, we're serious
about doing this,' there's not a whole lot for me to think about
because I don't have a whole lot to say."
If the fans had any say in it, Prior would never wear another uniform
besides his Cubs No. 22 jersey. When the right-hander was introduced to
the crowd jammed inside the Grand Ballroom at the Hilton Chicago during
opening ceremonies for the 21st Cubs Convention, he was greeted with the
chant, "No trade, no trade." Most Cubs fans remember that Prior's 10
strikeouts in his very first start was the most by any Cubs pitcher in
over 30 years. "I've never been ticked or anything," Prior said. "I felt
if anything was going to be done, somebody would've called me and said
something. Otherwise, it was business as usual. I was obviously going to
pitch for somebody this season, and I had to get ready."
There was also a
rumor that Prior decided to void the last year of his contract
because he was angry at the Cubs. That also was not true. "That was
something that was written in the contract," he said of his ability
to be eligible for arbitration. "That was in the negotiations five
years ago. We felt it was fair at the time. It was basically the
last two years [of the contract] - if I'm eligible for arbitration,
I have the privilege to go to arbitration." Prior will make more
money in 2006 thanks to this foresight.
"I've been spending this off season trying to iron out some things and
correct some habits that I fell into because of what happened with my
elbow," Prior said. "One thing I did learn, and after I've been
reflecting, is how fortunate and valuable the time is when you're
healthy. At any moment, anything can happen. "The other day I was home
watching [NFL quarterback] Drew Brees get hurt, and I see Carson Palmer
go down two plays into the game. It's a very fragile existence from that
standpoint." He's well aware of the business side of baseball, too. "As
far as everything I've heard, they weren't dangling me out there and
trying to get rid of me," Prior said. He'd like to stay with the Cubs.
"I love playing here. I have no desire to leave," he said. "I love
playing in the city of Chicago; I love this town. I don't think I
could've been as fortunate as I was to fall here out of college. Not too
many people get the luxury of coming to a city like Chicago. It's a
great city, a great town and I love being here. It's a great town to
play baseball in."
Prior had become
arbitration eligible when he used his option to void the final year
of his original contract signed in 2001. Under the original terms,
he was to make $2.75 million this year. Prior had asked for $4
million, while the Cubs countered with an offer of $3.3 million.
Arbitration arrived at the $3.65 million figure. "We're certainly
glad to have it done," said Cubsí general manager Jim Hendry. "Our
stance is always to try to work with the representative, John Boggs,
to a conclusion of fairness to avoid the process if we can. This was
something we wanted to do, and hopefully Mark will have a great
Other current Cubs arbitration-eligible players include infielder Jerry
Hairston, outfielder Juan Pierre, and pitchers Will Ohman and Carlos
Zambrano. Cubsí general manager Jim Hendry and team president Andy
MacPhail have never gone to arbitration with a player. Hendry said he is
continuing to negotiate with the players' representatives in hopes of
reaching an agreement.
Players with at least three years seniority in the Major Leagues, plus
the longest active 17 percent of those with between two and three years
service, are eligible for salary arbitration. Mark Prior, for example,
now has three years, 131 days of Major League service time.
How does arbitration work? Players and teams exchange figures, and if no
agreement is reached between the two, the case is referred to an
arbitrator. Pierre, 28, whom the Cubs acquired from the Florida Marlins
for three Minor League pitchers, made $3.7 million in 2005. He is coming
off a season in which he hit .276 with two homers, 47 RBIs and 57 stolen
bases in 162 games. The center fielder asked for $6.5 million, while the
Cubs offered $5 million.
Cubsí pitcher Zambrano earned $3.76 million last season and led the Cubs
in wins with 14. He established career highs in starts (33), innings
pitched (223 1/3) and strikeouts (202). Zambrano asked for $7.2 million,
while the Cubs countered with an offer of $6 million. In his first
season with the Cubs, Hairston, 29, made $1.8 million last season. He
batted .261, hit four homers, 25 doubles and had 30 RBI. Hairston
requested $2.6 million in 2006, while the Cubs offered $1.95 million.
Ohman, 28, is seeking $775,000, while the Cubs offered $500,000. Ohman,
who has three years, 40 days of Major League service time, made $320,000
in 2005 in his return to the big leagues. The left-hander, who has spent
much time on the disabled list because of three elbow surgeries, was 2-2
with a 2.91 ERA in 69 games.
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