It should come as no great shock that the Cubs today declined to offer salary arbitration to free agents Rich Harden, Kevin Gregg, Reed Johnson and Chad Fox. Reports out there also say the White Sox will not offer arbitration to Jermaine Dye, Octavio Dotel and Scott Podsednik.
This does not mean these players cannot re-sign with the Cubs or Sox. It simply means that the former teams will not get draft-pick compensation if another team signs any of these free agents.
It's been pretty clear since the middle of last summer that the Cubs were not going to offer arbitration to Harden, and this has been the subject of much consternation among some followers of the Cubs. Harden, a Type B free agent, made $7 million last year, and it's possible that he and his agent would be seeking $10 million or more in arbitration. Gregg, a Type A free agent, would be in line for a raise from the $4.2 million he made this year.
If the Cubs offered arbitration to either (or to Johnson, who made $3 million), the players would immediately accept, and the Cubs would be on the hook to pay out money they don't have. Of these three, Johnson might be the only one the Cubs would conceivably re-sign after everybody sees how a slow-developing market shakes out.
Let's see how it plays out with Harden. Teams figure to be very cautious about handing out a multiyear deal to a pitcher with a history of shoulder problems and to a guy who had to be held out of starts near the end of the year.
The other question I've been asked is why the Cubs didn't trade Harden to Minnesota after the Twins claimed him on waivers in August. From what I've been told, there would not have been much in the way of prospects coming back, and the Cubs weren't ready to quit on the season at that point.
The Cubs would never come out and say a guy is a medical risk, but when they praise the pitching coach and trainer for getting the player ready to start 26 games, you can pretty much figure there could be trouble ahead. And what would people be saying if Harden were to blow out in spring training with the Cubs having to pay him $10 million to rehab?
Things could be heating up ever so slightly on the Milton Bradley trade front. I don't expect anything before the winter meetings get under way in Indy next week, but maybe we'll have something at the meetings. That would be different.