Cubs settle arbitration case with Prior

Prior, Cubs avoid arbitration

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs settled one of five arbitration cases pending on Friday, when the team and pitcher Mark Prior agreed to a $3.65 million contract for 2006.

Prior had become arbitration eligible when he voided the final year of his original contract signed in 2001. Under the terms of the original deal, he was to make $2.75 million this year. Prior had asked for $4 million, while the Cubs countered with an offer of $3.3 million. The right-hander was 11-7 with a 3.67 ERA in 27 games in 2005.

"We're certainly glad to have it done," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Friday. "Our stance is always to try to work with the representative, John Boggs, to a conclusion of fairness to avoid the process if we can. This was something we wanted to do, and hopefully Mark will have a great 2006."

The Cubs' other arbitration-eligible players include infielder Jerry Hairston, outfielder Juan Pierre, and pitchers Will Ohman and Carlos Zambrano. Hendry and Cubs team president Andy MacPhail have never gone to arbitration with a player. Hendry said Friday he is continuing to negotiate with the players' representatives in hopes of reaching an agreement.

Players with at least three years of service in the Major Leagues, plus the most senior 17 percent of those with between two and three years service, are eligible for salary arbitration. Prior, for example, now has three years, 131 days of Major League service time. How does arbitration work? Players and teams exchange figures, and if no agreement is reached, the case is heard before an arbitrator.

Pierre, 28, whom the Cubs acquired from the Florida Marlins for three Minor League pitchers, made $3.7 million in 2005. He's coming off a season in which he batted .276 with two homers, 47 RBIs and 57 stolen bases in 162 games. The center fielder asked for $6.5 million, while the Cubs offered $5 million.

Zambrano, 24, made $3.76 million last season and led the Cubs with 14 wins. He established career highs in starts (33), innings pitched (223 1/3) and strikeouts (202). Zambrano asked for $7.2 million, while the Cubs countered with an offer of $6 million.

Hairston, 29, made $1.8 million last season, his first with the Cubs. He batted .261 with four homers, 25 doubles and 30 RBIs. Hairston has asked for $2.6 million in 2006, while the Cubs offered $1.95 million.

Ohman, 28, is seeking $775,000, while the Cubs offered $500,000. Ohman, who has three years, 40 days of Major League service time, made $320,000 in 2005 in his return to the big leagues. The left-hander, who had been sidelined by three elbow surgeries, was 2-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 69 games.

Arbitration hearings begin Feb. 1. The arbitrator will pick one figure or the other, and there is no compromise.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.