Money is Tight for Cubs

Money is Tight for Cubs

Heading into Christmas, the offseason remained much too quiet for the liking of Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, who had been hampered by his inability to trade troublesome right fielder Milton Bradley.

Hendry found a taker for Bradley on Friday in the Mariners, trading the $30 million man to Seattle for right-hander Carlos Silva. Seattle will send $9 million to the Cubs as part of the swap.

Money is tight for the Cubs and their new owners, and there is one more factor to figure into the equation. The Cubs have tendered contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players except for pitcher Neal Cotts, and at least a couple of those players are in line for big raises. (Cotts may be asked back on a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.)

The most important names on the Cubs' arbitration-eligible list are closer Carlos Marmol and shortstop Ryan Theriot. Neither had a spectacular year in 2009, but both were good enough that their agents will be looking for healthy pay increases.

Marmol went 11-for-11 in save opportunities after getting the full-time closer's job in mid-August from Kevin Gregg. He made $575,000 this year, but could be seeking about $2 million for 2010. Marmol also walked 65 batters and hit 12 in 74 innings.

Theriot's on-base percentage dropped from .387 to .343, as his walks decreased and his strikeouts went up this year from 2008. Still, Theriot played in 154 games and was dependable overall. He'll likely see his salary jump from its 2009 level of $500,000 to somewhere over $1 million.

Another Cub in line for a nice raise is lefty Sean Marshall, who made $450,000 this year. He's been a valuable swingman the last two years.

Other arbitration-eligible players are second baseman Mike Fontenot, right-hander reliever Angel Guzman, left-handed pitcher Tom Gorzelanny, infielder Jeff Baker and catcher Koyie Hill.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Marshall is a candidate for the rotation, but has been highly effective as a middle reliever. He had a 3.23 ERA in 46 relief appearances this year compared to a 5.24 ERA in nine starts. Marshall opened the 2009 season as the team's fifth starter, but the Cubs moved him to the bullpen at the beginning of June. He'll battle with Gorzelanny and RHP Jeff Samardzija for a spot in the rotation in spring training. Manager Lou Piniella says he'll keep an open mind regarding the competition.

--2B Mike Fontenot is one player the Cubs are eager to have work with new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. The left-handed-hitting Fontenot likely will share time at second base with Jeff Baker, who bats right-handed. Fontenot is arbitration-eligible as a "Super-2" player. He has two years plus 139 days of major league service. His batting average dropped from .305 in 2008 to .236 in 2009. Fontenot batted .216 in May and .211 in June when 3B Aramis Ramirez was out with a shoulder injury. Fontenot started 37 games at third base this year. The Cubs say Jaramillo has been studying video of Fontenot and other Cubs hitters.

--INF Bobby Scales, who made his major league debut in 2009 after 11 seasons and more than 1,000 games in the minor leagues, is likely to be a non-roster invitee to spring training in 2010. The Cubs outrighted Scales off the 40-man roster in the fall, but he impressed the team with his performance over 51 games. Included were seven pinch hits in 14 at-bats. Scales could push for a utility job.

--OF Reed Johnson is a free agent, but the Cubs haven't ruled out bringing him back despite not offering him salary arbitration. Johnson made $3 million this year, and the Cubs are interested only in bringing him back at a lesser deal. The Cubs like Johnson's defense and his ability to play all three outfield positions. The right-handed batter has had much better success against left-handed pitching.

PROSPECT WATCH

--RHP Jeff Stevens had an 0-4 record, a 4.70 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) in winter ball in Mexico. As the Cubs seek a veteran presence for their bullpen, Stevens is a low-cost candidate along with RHP Justin Berg, who saw limited big-league time in 2009. Stevens came to the Cubs from Cleveland in the Mark DeRosa trade. He is the only one of three pitchers the Cubs got in that trade to make it to the big leagues so far. He was 1-0 with a 7.11 ERA in 11 games with the Cubs, and he went 1-3 with a 2.03 ERA and two saves for Class AAA Iowa.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- Cubs who had 10 or more homers in 2009, a first for the club since 2000. The eight from 2009 were Derrek Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Ramirez, Bradley, Jake Fox, Kosuke Fukudome, Geovany Soto and Micah Hoffpauir.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You look at the names that we have out there, they're a bunch of young kids with good arms. They got a chance to pitch last year, and we pitched well, but getting one more veteran would help stabilize things." -- Piniella, on the bullpen picture.

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