Cubs Done With Prior?

Three newspapers, one message: Mark Prior‘s future with the Cubs is in doubt.  You can ask Paul Sullivan, Gordon Wittenmyer, or Bruce Miles.

Prior recently had shoulder surgery with Dr. James Andrews, and he’ll accrue no Major League service time this year.  You have to wonder if the Cubs sending Prior to Triple A initially was done with this in mind.  Now, Prior won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2009 season.

Should the Cubs cut ties with Prior and non-tender him this winter, or should they invest just a few million more to see if he can rise up out of the ashes and pitch like a fifth starter?  As Wittenmyer writes, they’d have to pay him at least $2.86MM in ’08.  Sullivan speculates that his salary would be close to what it is now, maybe $3.4MM or so.  Let’s say he settles at $3.3MM.

Sometimes we see teams pass on their own players at perfectly reasonable prices, just to try something new.  I hope the Cubs don’t do this here.  All that has happened with Prior, all the hope and disappointment – it’s a sunk cost.  The question is whether the Cubs should invest another $3.3MM in this man to see if he can provide 150 decent innings in 2008.  I think the answer is yes.

His shoulder has been a problem for years, and now it will be clean of dead or scar tissue or whatever other crap has been floating around in there.  The money is a drop in the bucket for the Cubs, and if there’s a 10% chance of getting two seasons of Chris Carpenter-type pitching, they have to do it.

Here is a list of starters who signed for between $3-4MM this offseason: David Wells, Steve Trachsel, Ramon Ortiz, and Tony Armas Jr.  In the offseason I would’ve argued that none of them had a shot at ascending beyond fifth-starterdom, but Ortiz is doing his best to prove that wrong.  Prior fits into this class but has more potential, as frustrating as he is.

Jim Hendry said he is just going to let the rehab process take place and make a decision on Prior down the road.  That’s a perfectly reasonable approach.

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