Three articles about the Cubs’ Mark Prior situation came out today – Buster Olney, Paul Sullivan, and Gordon Wittenmyer. The Cubs have until December 12th to make a decision one way or another – that date is the last day for teams to offer 2008 contracts to unsigned players.
The Cubs may try to keep Prior and see if they can salvage anything. He hasn’t taken a big league mound since August 10, 2006, when he got knocked around by the Brewers. What the Cubs don’t want is to bring Prior back for 2008, see him rebuild value, and then have him jump ship after the season. Instead they want an option for 2009 tacked on. The least the Cubs can sign him for ’08 is $2.86MM.
Prior won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2009 season since he accrued no MLB service time this year. So I’m not sure why the Cubs would be terribly concerned with ’09 since they would control him for that year anyway. UPDATE: From what I’m hearing he is a free agent after ’08 after all.
As Buster Olney notes, the Cubs also have the option of trading Prior right now. Then his new team can deal with the contract situation. There’s definitely a little bit of low-cost upside there, and the Padres are said to be interested.
The third option is to non-tender Prior, which seems dumb to me. It’d be better to keep him around for one more year at $3MM.