Cubs win arbitration case with Theriot
Shortstop will earn $2.6 million during 2010 season
MESA, Ariz. -- Ryan Theriot lost his arbitration hearing but still came out a winner.
The Cubs won their case with the shortstop and will pay him $2.6 million this season, the team announced Saturday. Theriot, who made $500,000 last year, was seeking $3.4 million. Even though he lost, he will still get a significant raise.
"The process itself was very informative," said Theriot, who arrived Saturday in Arizona. "It's a different look at everything, kind of how the numbers go. [It was] long, boring. It's over now and I'm glad it's over and we can put that all behind us and get ready to win a pennant this year."
The two sides had a hearing Friday in Tampa, Fla. This was the first time Theriot, 30, was arbitration-eligible and the first time the Cubs had a hearing since 1993.
"We've always paid players what's fair," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Saturday. "I think those of you who know us know we would've never been in Tampa unless I thought we'd reached the highest level of fairness.
"I'm not mad at Ryan for wanting to go [to arbitration]," Hendry said. "He has every right to put himself on the other side of the philosophical midpoint."
Hendry and Theriot have known each other for 10 years and the two talked before the hearing.
"He's being compensated what I thought was a fair number to begin with," Hendry said. "He'll be fine."
"I think Jim's been fair to me for a long time," Theriot said. "Those friendships go farther than anything else."
Theriot's case was the last to be heard in Major League Baseball. The teams won the arbitration cases this year, 5-3.
Hendry had settled 36 straight arbitration cases since taking over, including seven this year. Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Jeff Baker, Mike Fontenot, Koyie Hill, Angel Guzman and Tom Gorzelanny all reached agreements and avoided arbitration.
Scott Nelson, director of baseball administration for the team, compiles the numbers and does the research, and Hendry credited him for helping settle the other cases. But Hendry said he knew about a month ago that they weren't going to resolve Theriot's case that easily.
"It wasn't an adversarial-type case," Hendry said. "It was more a philosophical-type case for that type of player, first-time eliglble. It was a matter of how you wanted to look at different type of players who were on the north or south of the midpoint."
Theriot agreed that the four-hour hearing was more statistics than any personal attacks.
"To be honest with you, it wasn't bad," the shortstop said. "It was a lot of facts from both sides. My focus now is just to come in here and win. It was very interesting, for sure."
The Cubs are projecting Theriot to fill the leadoff spot this year with Kosuke Fukudome batting second, or vice versa. The shortstop is coming off a season in which he set numerous career highs. Theriot batted .284 with 20 doubles, five triples, seven homers and 54 RBIs.
If he was the leadoff man, Theriot would have to work on his on-base percentage. In 2008, he drew 73 walks and struck out 58 times; in 2009, he walked 51 times and struck out 93 times.
"[I would have to] be on base, score runs, be productive at the top spot," Theriot said of what could be his new role. "There's a niche in this game for guys who do that and do it well. Every good team has one of those guys. If that's the role I'm in, great. I would love to do that. That's something I think I could excel in for sure."
He's also heard about highly touted Cubs prospect Starlin Castro, who is one of the four position players yet to report this spring. Castro is a shortstop and could bump Theriot to second base.
"As it is now, I am the shortstop and I have been for three years," Theriot said. "I feel I've done a good job and he's going to have to come get it."
Cubs manager Lou Piniella didn't expect any bad feelings between the shortstop and the team after the decision.
"He's a big part of our scheme of things," Piniella said of Theriot. "Players, when they go into arbitration, it's either the team's figure or the players' figure and there's no in-between. In this case, they chose the team's figure and we'll go forward. Ryan has a wonderful attitude and he'll be ready to go."
The Cubs last came close to an arbitration hearing in 2007 with Carlos Zambrano. Hendry and Zambrano's agent were able to reach an agreement minutes before the session started.
The Cubs now have a 4-2 record in arbitration cases. The team's last hearing was in 1993 when Mark Grace filed for $4.1 million and the Cubs offered $3.1 million. The Cubs won that case.
In 1980, Bruce Sutter sought $700,000 and the Cubs offered $350,000. Sutter won the case. In 1985, Leon Durham asked for $1.1 million and the Cubs offered $800,000. The Cubs won.
In 1988, Andre Dawson asked for $2 million and the Cubs offered $1.85 million. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the Cubs. In 1990, Shawon Dunston asked for $1.25 million and the team countered at $925,000. Dunston won.
Now, it's back to spring workouts.
"We'll move forward, put it behind us, and hopefully we won't have to do it again in my regime," Hendry said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.