The Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan on the curious matter of the Cubs’ pending arbitration case with Mark Prior.

It’s rare when a player of Prior’s stature is asked to take a pay cut, but the Cubs offered Prior $3.4 million in arbitration, a 7 percent decline from his $3.65 million salary in 2006. Prior asked for $3.875 million, a 6 percent raise.

The gap of $475,000 isn’t huge in baseball terms, but if neither side budges, it could lead to one of the most interesting arbitration hearings in ages.

Considering he was 1-6 with a 7.21 earned-run average in another injury-plagued season, Prior’s request for a raise seems ludicrous.

Recall that Prior opted to void the final year of his original contract last winter to make more money in arbitration, coming off a disappointing season in 2005.

Hendry’s decision to offer a lower salary is defensible in the real-world workplace, but baseball operates under its own strange, unwritten rules. A player’s salary seldom goes down unless he’s released, non-tendered or becomes an unwanted free agent.

“The arbitration process on filing is just part of the business,” Hendry says. “Obviously, the gap is not significantly far apart compared to most arbitration cases.”

Hendry denies the Cubs’ offer was meant as a slap at Prior, once regarded as a cornerstone of the team’s future. After all, he can’t afford to have Prior on the disabled list with a swollen cheek.

While Wednesday’s big baseball story was undoubtedly the consumation of the long rumored Adam LaRoche for Mike Gonzalez swap between the Braves and Pirates, spare a thought for the Nationals’ signing of Tony Womack to a minor league deal. “Womack, general manager Jim Bowden and manager Manny Acta were not available for comment,” notes’s Bill Ladson, but can you blame any of the above for not wishing to brag about it?