Numbers were exchanged for arbitration eligible players on Jan. 16 and the Cubs offered Prior (who made $3.65 million in 2006) just $3.4 million for this season after he went 1-6 with a 7.21 ERA in nine starts. Prior missed most of the season with a shoulder injury.
Prior was not seeking a big raise, looking for $3.875 million. The two sides should find some common ground before a hearing in February.
But since the Cubs spent more than $300 million on player salary and on new manager Lou Piniella during the off season, it appears that the Cubs are trying to nickel and dime him and send a message that he needs to stay healthy.
Hendry said the offer was just business and not meant as an insult to Prior.
"I have nothing but high hopes that Mark is going to come back and pitch great and make a lot more money down the road," Hendry said. "But it's a part of the business neither side enjoys. Last year Mark got to exercise a clause in his contract after he didn't have a great year (in 2005) and got an $800,000-$900,000 raise. It's business.
"There was no kicking and screaming and growling (on Tuesday). It's just philosophically a little difference of what you think he should make coming off the year he had. I don't think this is going to be a fistfight."
Prior and Wade Miller (who also had shoulder problems last year) are the leading candidates for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
Forgoing a chance to seek two-sport stardom, RHP Jeff Samardzija agreed to a five-year, $10 million deal with the Cubs. Samardzija, 21, played wide receiver at Notre Dame, and he was considered a potential first-round NFL selection in April, but he said he is giving up football. He pitched briefly for two of the Cubs' low-level minor league affiliates last summer, and he will probably begin the 2007 season in Class A.
1B Derrek Lee, who missed most of the 2006 season with a broken wrist, has been hitting three or four times a week, according to general manager Jim Hendry. The Cubs feel he will be at full strength in 2007.
RHP Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs exchanged arbitration numbers, with the team offering $11 million and Zambrano seeking $15.5 million. The two sides could come to an agreement before a hearing in February, and the Cubs could try to sign him to a long-term deal during spring training.
LHP Will Ohman inked a two-year deal worth $2.5 million. He joins a bullpen in which two other left-handed relievers (Scott Eyre and Neal Cotts) are under contract.
RHP Kerry Wood, who will convert to a reliever in 2007, has been throwing off the mound for the last couple of weeks, according to general manager Jim Hendry. Wood missed most of last season because of shoulder problems. He had shoulder surgery in August 2005.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1993 -- The last time the Cubs went to an arbitration hearing with a player (Mark Grace).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Carlos has said he wanted to stay here and has told the world he wanted to start and finish with the Cubs. But sooner or later in this business, you might have to go (to a hearing)." -- Cubs general manager Jim Hendry on the possibility the Cubs may have an arbitration hearing with RHP Carlos Zambrano in February.
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