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Tampa Bay Rays appeared headed to arbitration hearing with catcher Dioner Navarro

ST. PETERSBURG — With negotiations broken off, the Rays and catcher Dioner Navarro are headed to an arbitration hearing with more than the $400,000 difference in salary at stake.

Kendall Almerico, Navarro's Tampa-based agent, said how the Rays treat their All-Star catcher at the hearing could impact his long-term future with the team.

"It appears that we have reached an impasse and that we will be going to arbitration on Monday," Almerico said Wednesday. "After that, I hope to resume negotiations on a long-term deal so Navi can play in Tampa for the rest of his career. But that may depend on how the Rays present their case and whether the Rays treat Navi respectfully at the hearing as Navi has instructed us to treat the Rays throughout this entire process."

Hearings can get contentious as teams will sometimes degrade the value of their player in an effort to convince the arbitrators to rule in their favor. Navarro, who can't be a free agent until after the 2011 season, seeks a $2.5 million salary; the Rays offered $2.1 million.

Executive vice president Andrew Friedman cited team policy in declining to comment on the negotiations but pointed to a history of settling cases and working out deals.

"Navi is an important part of our team," he said. "We've shown our commitment to our young players through the many multi-year contracts we've signed with our young and arbitration-eligible players, and our track record in that area speaks for itself."

Of the 19 arbitration-eligible players during Friedman's first three offseasons, they went to only two hearings, both with backup catcher Josh Paul and both team wins. During that time, they worked out multiyear deals with Rocco Baldelli, Casey Fossum, Scott Kazmir, Carlos Pena and Dan Wheeler; and pre-arbitration deals with James Shields and Evan Longoria.

Of the five arbitration-eligibles this offseason, they settled with Grant Balfour, Jason Bartlett, Gabe Gross and are negotiating a two-year deal with infielder Willy Aybar.

At the hearing, both sides will present their case, and the three-person panel will pick one of the figures, with an announcement a few days later.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Rays appeared headed to arbitration hearing with catcher Dioner Navarro 02/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 10:51pm]
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