Monday, January 22, 2007

Floyd close to signing; Zambrano, Prior not

The Associated Press and the Chicago Sun-Times have reported that the Chicago Cubs are close to signing free agent outfielder Cliff Floyd to a one-year contract. Floyd, who was limited to 97 games last season due to injuries, will likely be the fourth outfielder in an outfield that would see Murton, Soriano, and Jones as the regulars.

Though many assumed that Jones would move to center field to accomodate Soriano, who came off of a 40-40 season last year while playing left field for the Nationals, manager Lou Piniella has hinted that he has considered starting Soriano in center field. Other rumors involved moving Mark DeRosa to center field to make room for Theriot or Cedeno. In any case, it appears that Felix Pie will start the year in Iowa (AAA), as he should.

After the Cubs signed lefty Will Ohman to a multi-year deal last week, pitchers Carlos Zambrano and Mark Prior are the only two Cubs yet to be signed for the 2007 season. Zambrano, who grabbed a share of the league lead in wins (16) last year despite not winning a game in his first seven starts, is seeking $15.5 million for next season. The Cubs have countered with just over $11 million and the two sides now have until February 1 to agree on a deal or take the case to salary arbitration.

If the case does go to a hearing, it would be the first time that Andy MacPhail has taken a player to arbitration, and it would also mean that Zambrano would become a free agent after the 2007 season. Keep in mind, all Zambrano needs to do is prove that he's worth more a penny over $13,262,500 to get the entire $15.5 million. Furthermore, it might be best to sign Zambrano to a long-term deal now, with Barry Zito's monster contract this off-season and surely more to come next season, the price tag on Zambrano would go up at the end of the season.

Zambrano, who has already been named the Opening Day starter, has stated that he does not want contract negotiations to continue once the season starts.

On the other hand, Mark Prior has been offered $3.4 million. The once highly coveted right-hander, has countered with $3.875 million, putting the half-way point very close to his salary of $3.65 million last season. Prior, who has won more than ten games only twice in his career, says that he is ready to return to the rotation full time, but why should we believe him? Personally, I've lost all hope in Mark Prior and don't see how he thinks he has a chance to win the case.

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