Prior became arbitration eligible when he voided the final year of the contract he signed in 2001. Under the terms of the original deal, he was to make $2.75 million in 2006. On Tuesday, Prior 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.
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 3 years, 131 days of ML service time. How does arbitration work? Players and teams exchange figures, and if no agreement is reached, the case is heard before an arbitrator.
The Cubs' other arbitration-eligible players include infielder Jerry Hairston, outfielder Juan Pierre, and pitchers Will Ohman and Carlos Zambrano. Cubs team president Andy MacPhail and general manager Jim Hendry have never gone to arbitration with a player.
"We feel like we always do, that we're trying to be fair to the player," Hendry said. "We've proven in the past we're willing to be more than fair. Once again, we will do what we can to avoid going to a hearing with anyone.
"But there may come a day when we have to go. That's just part of the business."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 asked for $2.6 million in 2006, while the Cubs offered $1.95 million.
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.
Ohman, 28, is seeking $775,000 while the Cubs offered $500,000. Ohman, who has 3 years 40 days of ML 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.
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.
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 MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.