An arbitration hearing is something that general manager Jon Daniels and his Texas Rangers’ front office staff have yet to experience. And they hope that trend continues with four players eligible to file for salary arbitration on Tuesday.
First baseman Mitch Moreland, left-hander Neal Cotts and right-handers Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz are arbitration-eligible. Filing is the first step in the process followed by the player and team exchanging salary proposals Friday, and then the sides trying to find a middle ground on a contract for 2014 before arbitration hearings begin in February.
“It’s always our preference to reach a negotiated agreement,” said Matt Vinnola, the Rangers’ director of baseball operations who is handling the negotiations this year.
It’s typically beneficial for both the team and player to avoid going to a hearing. Neither side wants to be on the losing end, although it’s not always a guarantee it can be avoided.
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The Rangers almost went to an arbitration hearing with Mike Napoli before the 2012 season. Vinnola boarded a flight to Tampa/ St. Petersburg for a hearing, but an agreement was reached just before the deadline.
“Napoli did go down to the wire,” said Vinnola, who joined the front-office staff in November 2009. “That was the closest call for me with the Rangers.”
Several factors go into negotiations and this year will be no different. Moreland and Feliz, both arbitration-eligible for the first time, are in what could be considered unique circumstances.
Moreland will have a changed role going forward with the addition of Prince Fielder, while Feliz is not that far removed from Tommy John elbow surgery that cost him to miss most of last season.
“Factors involved vary tremendously each season and really on a player to player basis,” Vinnola said. “Injury and role are certainly two of the factors under consideration during this process.”
Like Moreland and Feliz, Ogando is also arbitration-eligible for the first time. The Rangers could explore multi-year deals for each of those players to avoid going through this process again next year and in 2016.
Cotts, meanwhile, is in his final year of arbitration and will become a free agent after next season.