What? You're wondering what the picture above has to do with Carlos Marmol? Good question. Over the last few years of shooting Chicago sports, I haven't found a better photo yet that exemplifies the life of the pro athlete, and the high-dollar club that they are members of. You know the club. Where members of even the most marginal talent are all but assured of making millions over their career, if not in a single season. And that's just the scrubs.
Yes, that is a cigar in his mouth. And yes, they did light it with $100 bills. No, just kidding. It was only a $50.
And with his new deal, a one-year pact worth $2.125 million, Marmol is officially its newest member. Don't get me wrong; it's a fine deal that if anything doesn't fully recognize his worth, but then again first-year arbitration deals very rarely do.
And now, with Spring Training less than two weeks away, we wait for Ryan Theriot to join the party, the last remaining unsigned player for the Cubs.
My guess? This one is going to be a little ugly. There are two problems with Theriot's case that we should probably keep in mind. One is that he's 30 years old, and given that he would hit the free agent market around 33, which is at the point in which most stop considering you to be an everyday shortstop, we should expect that Theriot may fight a little harder for arbitration dollars, as he'll likely never have the big free agent payday, and knows it.
The other is that the Cubs have inadvertently inflamed the situation with their high public regard for super prospect Starlin Castro, letting Theriot know in a not-so-subtle way that he's not in the long-term plans.
For the Cubs, it's simple. If you keep Theriot below $3 million this season, then you probably won't have to go above $4 million next season, making Theriot a nice solution for the next two years certainly time to have Castro ready for the majors. If you pay Ryan his submitted $3.4 figure now, you probably will have to be ready for $5 mil next season, which makes it possible that the Cubs might be more inclined to cut him loose, and look for a one-season solution in 2011.
In short, expect this battle to be very personal and a little ego driven. But hey, either way Ryan's going to be smoking his cigar in a couple of weeks, too, one way or the other.