Tampa Bay Rays, catcher Dioner Navarro ready for arbitration hearing

They'll gather this morning in a hotel conference room in Arizona, looking and acting like lawyers (as some are), presenting their case to a trio of paid arbitrators, then waiting a day or two for the binding decision.

It's not right or wrong, or good vs. evil. It's just baseball's arbitration process, a complicated, awkward and at times contentious way of settling a salary dispute between team and player.

And today, for the difference between a $2.1 million offer and a $2.5 million request, and with the risk of residual resentment, the Rays and catcher Dioner Navarro will go through it.

"In arbitration, some teams feel the need to come in with guns blazing at the player and that can make it personal," said Kendall Almerico, Navarro's agent. "But the Rays are a class organization and I do not expect them to do that to Navi, who has been a critical contributor to their success."

If the Rays, represented by general counsel John Higgins and the Proskauer Rose law firm, do throw out negative numbers, Navarro will hear it, as he will join Almerico and union officials in the room. Almerico has already said the Rays' methods could affect Navarro's desire to resume talks on a long-term deal they say he wants.

The Rays have a history of making deals to avoid hearings (and are getting close to another with Willy Aybar) but were not able to with Navarro. "The hearing is simply the final step in determining Navi's salary for this season,'' executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "It's the mechanism in place. Once it has concluded, we will all shift our full attention to preparing for the season and winning games.''

Each side submits extensive briefs, hundreds of pages filled with stats, charts and other complex data, then today gets one hour for oral argument.

They talk about things like the player's contributions and career, the team's success and the player's past salary but can't use their previous negotiations or the team's (or the player's) financial standing. The primary points, however, are typically comparisons to other players' statistics and salaries, and that's where it tends to get creative.

Navarro's side can point out that L.A.'s Russell Martin is getting $3.9 million and what other All-Stars got in their first arbitration years, such as Minnesota's Joe Mauer, $3.75 million, and Atlanta's Brian McCann, $3.5 million. "I feel that Navi's arbitration number is very reasonable, especially given that he is offering the Rays a significant hometown discount over what the other All-Star catchers like Mauer and McCann were paid," Almerico said.

The Rays can cite others, such as John Buck ($2.2 million), Ryan Doumit ($2.05 million), Johnny Estrada and Mike Napoli ($2 million) and Kelly Shoppach ($1.95 million).

PAYDAY FOR HOWARD: First baseman Ryan Howard agreed to a $54 million, three-year contract with the Phillies.

GLAVINE MULLS OFFER: Braves general manager Frank Wren confirmed that the team made an offer to left-hander Tom Glavine, but the 300-game winner hasn't decided whether to accept a significant pay cut.

RANGERS: Centerfielder Andruw Jones agreed to a minor-league deal.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Tampa Bay Rays, catcher Dioner Navarro ready for arbitration hearing 02/08/09 [Last modified: Monday, February 9, 2009 7:42am]

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