Rangers hope to avoid arbitration hearings

The Rangers got four of its seven arbitration players signed on Tuesday, the day when clubs can exchange arbitration figures with players. But they have three key players left to get under contract: shortstop Elvis Andrus, outfielder Nelson Cruz and catcher Mike Napoli.

The largest gap belongs to Napoli, who submitted a salary figure of $11.50 million and the club countered with $8.30 million, a $3.2 million gap. That puts the midpoint at $9.9 million. It doesn't mean the club and Napoli will settle on that figure.

"It’s an artiticial nhubmer, but it’s easy to point to in negotiations," Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine said. "It’s a number you can only speculate exists until you formalize those proposals. It's another data point to look at."

Levine said the club and the agents for the remaining players have had substantive conversations and expects the same going forward. The Rangers would prefer to avoid a hearing. That would happen some time in the first three weeks of February and involves presenting a case in front of a three-person panel who choose one figure or the other. They don't pick some figure out of the air. Texas hasn't been to an arbitration hearing in the Jon Daniels era. In fact, they haven't been to one since 2000 (Lee Stevens).

When figures were exchanged last year, the Rangers and Josh Hamilton were $3.3 million apart. But the two sides worked out a two-year deal, closing the gap in the process.

Napoli becomes a free agent after the 2012 season. Cruz is under club control through the 2013 season and Andrus through 2014.

"I think any time you file, you’re getting one step closer to a hearing room," Levine said. "But there’s always opportunities to sette, whether that’s a one-year deal or getting creative on a multi-year deal. There are avenues to pursue before you go to a hearing room. Historically, we have done everything in our power to creatively try to avoid that. At some point it’s inevitable that we go, but if we do go, it’s on the backdrop of exhausting all other alternatives to going. I think we’ll take the same tact on these three deals going forward."