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Cubs face question at second as tender deadline nears

Cubs face question at second as tender deadline nears

Cubs face question at second as tender deadline nears

CHICAGO -- Do the Cubs keep a solid defender like Darwin Barney at second base or look for another option?

That's one of the decisions the Cubs face Monday in advance of the 10:59 p.m. CT deadline for Major League teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players. The Cubs have eight other players on that list: infielders Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy, outfielder Nate Schierholtz, and pitchers Pedro Strop, Travis Wood, Daniel Bard, James Russell and Jeff Samardzija.

Strop, Wood, Russell, Valbuena, Samardzija and Schierholtz all appear to have secure spots on the 2014 Cubs along with Barney. The question surrounding the second baseman is his offense, which has declined considerably. Barney put together a slash line of .208/.266/.303 in 141 games this season. Compare that to his 2011 numbers: .276/.313/.353.

Despite that, the Cubs will likely tender Barney, who MLBTradeRumors.com projects will get $2.1 million next season. The team doesn't have many in-house options at second base other than Valbuena, who is expected to get $1.5 million after batting .218 in 108 games with 12 home runs and 15 doubles. Valbuena has been playing second base in Venezuela this winter.

Bard has struggled this winter in Puerto Rico, but the Cubs are expected to tender him as well. When the Cubs claimed Bard off waivers, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told him the Cubs were committed to the right-hander for the long haul. Once a terrific setup pitcher, Bard struggled after the Red Sox tried to convert him to a starter. He battled a strained abdominal muscle this season and appeared in two games for Boston.

Bard did not pitch in a game after joining the Cubs, but worked on the side with pitching coach Chris Bosio. They videotaped the sessions, but Bard was unaware of the cameras, as the Cubs hid one in the ivy and another in a door at Wrigley Field.

In November, Bard appeared in three games for Caguas in Puerto Rico and gave up seven earned runs, walked nine, hit three batters and threw four wild pitches. He retired one of the 13 batters he faced over three outings.

Will the right-hander regain the form he had in 2010, when he posted a 1.93 ERA in 73 games? The Cubs appear to be gambling that Bard will.

According to salaries projected by MLBTradeRumors.com, if the Cubs tender contracts to Samardzija, Schierholtz, Wood, Barney, Bard, Russell, Valbuena, Strop and Murphy, they'll be adding $21.5 million to the payroll. The Cubs have committed $49 million to six players for 2014 and will be paying $14 million to the Yankees to cover the last year of Alfonso Soriano's contract.

The deadline for teams to decide is 10:59 p.m. CT Monday. Players not tendered before the deadline will become free agents.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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