The Cubs managed to record their first loss of the year six weeks before the season opener when Ian Happ beat the team in arbitration to secure a $4.1 million salary for 2021.
Of all the losses they'll endure this year, this one might have been the most unexpected.
Happ, the Cubs’ union representative, in his first year of eligibility, is the first player to beat the Cubs in arbitration since shortstop Shawon Dunston won his $1.25 million case in 1990 (the Cubs filed at $925,000).
The Cubs, who filed a $3.25 million figure in the Happ case, are 5-3 overall in arbitration cases, having won three straight until Happ’s victory, and five of their last six since Bruce Sutter won a then-record salary of $700,000 in 1980.
Along the way, they even beat reigning MVP Andre Dawson in 1988, who was seeking a relatively modest $2 million after the Cubs took advantage of his blank-contract offer as a free agent during the collusion years the year before to pay him $500,000 in 1987.
Arbitration panels must select either the player’s figure or the club’s after hearing each side’s case.
The Cubs’ arbitration cases through the years:
- 2021 — Lost to Ian Happ, $4.1 million (club figure: $3.25 million)
- 2018 — Beat Justin Grimm, $2.2 million (sought $2.475 million)
- 2010 — Beat Ryan Theriot, $2.6 million ($3.4 million)
- 1993 — Beat Mark Grace, $3.1 million ($4.1 million)
- 1990 — Lost to Shawon Dunston, $1.25 million ($950,000)
- 1988 — Beat Andre Dawson, $1.85 million ($2 million)
- 1985 — Beat Leon Durham, $800,000 ($1.1 million)
- 1980 — Lost to Bruce Sutter, $700,000 ($350,000)