ST. PETERSBURG — The $300,000 gap between the Rays and centerfielder B.J. Upton is, by arbitration standards, relatively slight. Both sides say they are going into today's hearing confident the outcome won't result in a chasm.
The process can be problematic and the words pointed as each side gets an hour to make its case then a half-hour to rebut the other's. The three-arbiter panel will then pick the Rays' offer of $3 million or Upton's request for $3.3 million with an announcement expected Saturday.
The Rays (4-0 in arbitration) will be represented by general counsel/senior vice president John Higgins and the Proskauer Rose law firm. Upton joins agent Larry Reynolds and his staff.
Neither side will be particularly happy to be there. But when they failed to reach a deal by the team's Jan. 19 filing day deadline, the only way to avoid a hearing was to work out a multi-year deal, and that didn't appear close to happening.
"Both sides are anxious to get past the hearing and to focus exclusively on the upcoming season,'' Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. Upton said last month he understands it can be rough to hear the team point out why he isn't worth the money but knows it's just part of the process: "We both understand that's the business."
With 12 players left, arbitration hearings began Thursday with Brewers outfielder Corey Hart. The headline case, also today, involves the Giants' Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young winner who seeks a record $13 million. The team offered $8 million.