Matt Swartz has developed a very accurate model that MLBTR uses to project arbitration salaries, as explained in this series of posts. We've heard from many MLB teams and agencies that reference the projections in their work. The Cubs are next in our series. Estimated service time is in parentheses, and estimated 2014 salary follows.
- Jeff Samardzija (4.028): $4.9MM
- Nate Schierholtz (5.078): $3.8MM
- Travis Wood (3.004): $3.6MM
- Darwin Barney (3.053): $2.1MM
- Daniel Bard (3.079): $1.8625MM
- James Russell (4.000): $1.7MM
- Luis Valbuena (3.148): $1.5MM
- Pedro Strop (2.156, Super Two): $1MM
- Donnie Murphy (4.043): $1MM
- Darnell McDonald (3.130): $700K
Samardzija is the Cubs' most important arbitration case, in that they are running out of time to extend him as he moves closer to free agency. Though he didn't improve much this year beyond pitching more innings, extensions for pitchers with four years of Major League service are rare. Samardzija should be able to get past Matt Harrison's five-year, $55MM deal, and closer to $80MM territory. If the Cubs can't agree with his agent on his value, he could bring an impressive haul in trade this winter.
Schierholtz, Russell, Wood, Valbuena, and Strop have roles on next year's team, perhaps barring trades of the first two. Though Wood had something of a breakout season, I don't think there's urgency to give him a $30MM guarantee on a multiyear deal, given lackluster peripheral stats.
We've projected Bard for the same salary he had last year, since reductions are so rare. The Cubs' September waiver claim of Bard suggests they'll tender him a contract, or at least non-tender and quickly re-sign him for less than the allowable 20% pay cut. Murphy has generally been deemed expendable by teams, but it would be fair to keep him on the roster after he hit 11 home runs in 163 plate appearances for the Cubs.
Barney won a Gold Glove in 2012 and continued to play strong defense this year. However, his lack of offensive production dwarfed his defense, resulting in a replacement level season. A non-tender seems extreme, partially because $2.1MM is acceptable money for a backup. The Cubs may instead consider trading Barney this winter. McDonald, a journeyman outfielder, will likely lose his 40-man roster spot soon.
If the Cubs tender contracts to Samardzija, Schierholtz, Wood, Barney, Bard, Russell, Valbuena, Strop, and Murphy, they'll be looking at an estimated $21.5MM for nine arbitration eligible players.