Arbitration hearings loom for unsigned players
Orioles' Hammel and Johnson, Reds' Choo, Tigers' Scherzer among 15 possible cases
Third baseman Chase Headley reached agreement on a new contract with the Padres on Wednesday. The Reds inked outfielder Chris Heisey and reliever Alfredo Simon on Thursday morning, and before the day was over, Martin Prado completed a four-year deal with the D-backs.
The timing wasn't a coincidence. In each case, those parties avoided salary arbitration as the clock was ticking. Hearings are scheduled to begin Monday and continue through February 21.
As of midday Friday, after left-hander Marc Rzepczynski and the Cardinals came to terms on a one-year contract, there were 15 unsigned players who had filed for arbitration.
The Orioles have two of the more interesting unresolved negotiations on the table. Right-hander Jason Hammel, who in his first season with Baltimore last year made $4.75 million while going 8-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 20 starts, filed a $8.25 million request. The Orioles countered with $5.7 million. The $2.55 million difference is the largest among the remaining players eligible for the process.
The O's are also dealing with All-Star closer Jim Johnson, who racked up 51 saves last year. They are $1.4 million apart. Baltimore has a third player, right-hander Darren O'Day, on the list.
Even after coming to terms with Heisey and Simon, the Reds still had four more players who can go through a hearing. One is the recently acquired outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and the others are pitchers Homer Bailey, Mat Latos and Mike Leake. The Cardinals face a potential hearing with third baseman David Freese.
In addition to Hammel and Johnson, six other players are seeking at least $5 million: Choo ($8 million), Detroit pitcher Max Scherzer ($7.4 million), Bailey ($5.8 million), Washington pitcher Jordan Zimmermann ($5.8 million), San Diego pitcher Clayton Richard ($5.55 million) and Colorado outfielder Dexter Fowler ($5.15 million).
Most cases are settled near the midpoint between the two figures. If a case does go to a hearing, a three-person panel listens to arguments from both sides and then must choose one number or the other.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.