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Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Cubs have arbitration decisions to make

By Bruce Levine

Like all 30 major league teams, the Chicago Cubs have until midnight Wednesday to offer arbitration to their own free agent players, however doing so could be a risky move.

Third baseman Aramis Ramirez and first baseman Carlos Pena are both considered Type-B free agents in the 2011 free agent class. The signing of a Type-B free agent would bring a sandwich pick for the team losing the player, which comes in the June 2012 amateur draft. Sandwich picks are made between the first and second rounds of the draft.

If the Cubs offer arbitration to either, or both players, the players essentially have a guaranteed contract for 2012. Ramirez made $15 million in 2011, and after posting a .306 average, 26 home runs and 93 RBIs, agent Paul Kinzer could easily ask for, and receive, $17-18 million in the arbitration process. Although Ramirez has already said he won't return to the club, he will have until Dec. 7 to accept arbitration should the Cubs choose to offer it to him.

The situation is the same for Pena, who made $10 million in 2011. Pena led the Cubs with 28 home runs and had 80 RBIs. Defensively Pena was ranked the best defensive first baseman in baseball using a system devised by ESPN Stats & Info. The system showed that he converted 50 errant throws into put-outs. Pena could ask for $12-13 million in arbitration if offered by the Cubs.

Kinzer has had conversations with at least five other teams, including the Milwaukee Brewers, about Ramirez's services. Ramirez is looking for a three- or four-year contract.

Pena's situation is a little different in that his agent, Scott Boras, will more than likely have his superstar first baseman Prince Fielder signed somewhere before he puts Pena on the market. Both Fielder and St. Louis Cardinals free agent Albert Pujols will establish an exceedingly high market for first basemen, with each expected to garner as much as $25 million per year. After both sign Pena may look like a bargain at $13-14 million per year.

Any team is still free to try to sign their free agents if they don't offer them arbitration, however they would not get any compensation should they sign elsewhere.

Left-handed pitcher John Grabow, right-handers Ramon Ortiz and Rodrigo Lopez and outfielder Reed Johnson are the team's other free agents. It's doubtful that any of these player will be offered arbitration.