Today the Cubs announced that they have signed Mark Prior for the 2006 season for $3.65M. As you all know, the Cubs control Prior through 2008 but Mark changed his contract status (as was his right) and had asked for $4M. I hope he’s happy with the $900,000 raise because I value his output on this team.

That leaves four more arbitration-eligible players who must be signed by Feb. 1st if the Cubs wish to avoid arbitration hearings; in arbitration there is no compromise, either the team’s offer or the player’s request are awarded. Those players are Will Ohman, Jerry Hairston Jr., Juan Pierre and Carlos Zambrano. The Cubs should come to an agreement fairly quickly with Ohman and Hairston, since there is little that divides them in aggregate dollars. That leaves Pierre and Zambrano, and both should get pretty close to asking price. I have every confidence that Jim Hendry will get these guys signed.

So who is the fifth player? Derrek Lee, that’s who. No, Derrek is not eligible for arbitration – rather he is free as a bird after 2006. I saw all I needed to see in ’05, I consider it imperative that Lee is inked for four years and I think he’s worth $56-60M. If Lee goes FA he ain’t coming back as a Cub so let’s get ‘er done Hendry!

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