<
>

Work still to be done in arbitration cases

The Rangers are still working through their three remaining arbitration cases, hoping to avoid a hearing. But with three cases left and hearing dates set in the next 10 days, assistant general manager Thad Levine concedes it's certainly possible that the club has to attend a hearing for the first time since 2000 (the Rangers won an arbitration case over Lee Stevens that year, before general manager Jon Daniels and his current staff arrived in Texas).

"I think any time you have three players who are still unresolved at this point in the arbitration process, you have to be realistic that there is a chance you're going to a hearing," said Levine, who is the point person on the negotiations.

The toughest case might be catcher Mike Napoli. The club and Napoli exchanged figures last month and were $3.2 million apart. Napoli had the best season of his career (.320 average, 30 HRs, 75 RBIs and he certainly would have been the World Series MVP had the Rangers won) and asked for $11.5 million with the club offering $8.3 million. Napoli's hearing date is Feb. 15.

But Napoli isn't the only arbitration case unresolved to this point. Elvis Andrus' hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Tampa, Fla., with Andrus (represented by Scott Boras) wanting $3.6 million and the club countering with $2.65 million. Cruz, who has a hearing date set for Feb. 17, is asking for $7.5 million and the club's exchange figure was $5.5 million.

"I feel that we’ve had healthy, productive, amicable dialogue with the agents," Levine said. "And while we don’t have deals, which means there’s still a gap that needs to be bridged, we are talking, which is tantamount to getting deals done."

The club and player have until the hearing begins to reach an agreement (even in the room before the hearing starts, they could reach a deal). If there is a hearing, a three-person panel will listen to presentations from each side and pick either the club's number or the player's number. They won't pick a number in between.

But Andrus is on the clock first. We'll see if they can strike a deal before Thursday's hearing.