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News » Tampa Bay Rays Inside Pitch 2009-01-29

Tampa Bay Rays Inside Pitch 2009-01-29

Tampa Bay Rays Inside Pitch 2009-01-29
When it comes to negotiating with arbitration-eligible players, the Rays have a rigid rule: reach an agreement by a predetermined deadline or go to arbitration.

The deadline -- noon Jan. 20 -- passed without a deal being struck with catcher Dioner Navarro and infielder Willy Aybar, so the Rays are headed to arbitration for only the fourth and fifth times in the team's 11-year history.

"As the players and the agents are aware, we do have a file-and-go strategy, which essentially means that if we can't reach an agreement with these players prior to filing numbers that that will be the end of the negotiations and we will let an arbitrator decide what an appropriate salary will be for these two players," senior vice president Gerry Hunsicker said.

"Typically, you don't get a deal done until the 11th hour, so by implementing this strategy, we've essentially tried to move the 11th hour up to now, as opposed to a month from now or three weeks from now when a hearing takes place."

Navarro batted a career-high .295, had a career-high 54 runs batted in and received raves for his improvement behind the plate, especially the way he handled the pitching staff. He is looking for a $2.5 million deal, $400,000 more than the Rays offered.

Aybar, the Rays' utility infielder who filled in at first base when Carlos Pena was injured and at third when Evan Longoria missed a month with a broken wrist, is seeking a contract around $1 million.

Neither player will break the bank with their demands, but the Rays are still not in any position to give away money.

"That is our policy and it's not something that we've used in a threatening way," Hunsicker said. "We've been open and forthright with the players and their representatives.

"The players fully understand that from the beginning of the process. They understand what our policy is. And in these cases and in future cases, as long as we have this as our policy, we will not enter into any additional dialogue after we file numbers."

Navarro said he understood the Rays' policy and that he will have no hard feelings, but that sometimes happens when management details why a player isn't worth what he thinks he's worth.

Hunsicker said that is the downside to the process.

"I first would say, generally, from a management standpoint, this puts the club in a somewhat difficult position because, obviously, they are our assets," Hunsicker said. "They are a part of our organization, a very important part of our organization. And I've been in hearings where players take things that they hear at a hearing differently.

"Some players take offense to it, and it can be very disruptive and lingering. And others understand this is just part of the business side of the game. They need to understand that this is not something we're going into in an adversarial way. We won't hold this against the player or the representative. It's merely a process that's available to both parties through the Basic Agreement when you can't reach an agreement on an appropriate salary between the parties.

"So as an organization, we will go out of our way in these two cases to make sure the players understand that there are certainly no hard feelings on our part and we're merely doing our job presenting this case -- like the player's representative had to do in representing his client -- and hopefully the players will understand that. And when the hearing is over, we shake hands and we move forward, united, and we get on with the business at hand."

Former Rays pitcher Esteban Yan lost arbitration in 2002. Former catcher Josh Paul lost in 2007 and 2008.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: January 29, 2009

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