Brewers swap figures with Clark, Ohka
Club prepares for arbitration as Tuesday deadline passes
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers were unable to come to terms with either of their arbitration-eligible players before Tuesday's deadline, and exchanged salary figures with center fielder Brady Clark and starting pitcher Tomo Ohka.
Clark, who made $1.425 million in 2005, including $300,000 in incentives, will see his salary more than doubled next season. He is asking for $3.5 million in arbitration, while the Brewers are offering $3 million.
Ohka, who earned $2.75 million in 2005, is asking for a raise to $5.2 million in arbitration; the Brewers' offer came in at $4.25 million, a $950,000 gap. Ohka is eligible for free agency after the season.
"We worked right up to the deadline and it's unfortunate that we couldn't get a deal negotiated," said Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash, who handled negotiations with Ohka while general manager Doug Melvin worked with Clark.
"We made what we felt were last offers in both cases and both were rejected," Ash said. "We were forced to go forward with submissions that we feel we can defend in a hearing. ... It's not a personal thing. We just have a business disagreement."
Clark and Ohka were among the 44 Major Leaguers who filed figures before Tuesday's deadline. All sides can continue negotiating right up to the date of hearings, which are scheduled for Feb. 1-21.
If settlements are not reached, arbitration hearings are held before a three-member panel that weighs written and oral arguments from both sides before selecting one figure, without explanation, to be the player's 2006 salary.
"It's a bit of a crapshoot," Ash said. "They don't write decisions, so you never know which factors tipped it one way or another."
Should the Brewers go to a hearing with either Clark or Ohka, the club's case will be presented by Los Angeles-based labor lawyer Harry Zinn, who has worked with Ash since the latter's days as GM of the Toronto Blue Jays.
A year ago, an all-time low of three cases went all the way to a hearing. Ownership got the decision in two of them, improving its historical edge over the players to 265-198. According to a longtime Brewers baseball operations employee, it is believed that the team has not gone to a salary arbitration hearing with a player since Jim Gantner in 1991.
There are six criteria considered by the arbitration panel, including the quality of the player's contributions to the club the previous season and comparative baseball salaries. The panel is directed to give particular attention, for comparative salary purposes, to the salaries of players with Major League service time not exceeding one annual service group above the player's annual service group.
The other criteria are career contributions, past compensation, injuries or other debilitations, and the club's recent performance and attendance as an indication of public acceptance. Evidence that is not admissible includes the financial condition of the club or player, press comments, offers made by the club or player prior to the hearing and salaries in other sports or occupations.
The Brewers have avoided the sometimes uncomfortable arbitration process in recent seasons. Last year, four Brewers, including Clark and ace right-hander Ben Sheets, submitted figures, but the team settled at or near the midpoint with all four.
Clark responded with career highs in games played, average, hits, runs scored, doubles, home runs and RBIs, and his .306 average tied for eighth best in the National League. He turns 33 on April 18.
Ohka, who was acquired from the Washington Nationals on June 10, went 7-6 with a 4.35 ERA as a Brewer and 11-9 with a 4.04 ERA overall. He will turn 30 on March 18.
"I think the track record for both Doug and I is that we get deals done," Ash said. "But it's not always a bad thing to go to a hearing."
The Brewers settled in recent weeks with four other arbitration-eligible players, including catcher Chad Moeller (one-year, $700,000) and relievers Kane Davis (one-year, non-guaranteed $375,000) and Matt Wise (two years, $1.7 million).
One other player, infielder Russell Branyan, avoided arbitration by agreeing to a non-guaranteed contract worth $800,000, but was subsequently designated for assignment to make room for newly acquired third baseman Corey Koskie. Branyan cleared waivers on Tuesday and was formally released.
The Chicago Cubs' Carlos Zambrano filed for $7.2 million on Tuesday, the only arbitration-eligible starting pitcher to trump Ohka. The largest filing for a position player belonged to the Nationals' Alfonso Soriano, who is seeking $12 million against his club's $10 million.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.