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01/25/10 7:05 PM EST

Wandy, Astros headed to arbitration

Team-imposed deadline passes without agreement

HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Ed Wade said the club will head to an arbitration hearing with left-hander Wandy Rodriguez after the two sides were unable to reach an agreement by Monday's team-imposed deadline.

Rodriguez, who led the club in wins (14), starts (33), innings pitched (205 2/3) and strikeouts (193), is seeking $7 million, and the club is offering $5 million. Of the Astros' eight arbitration-eligible players, Rodriguez was the only one not to reach a deal, with the $2 million gap the largest difference among the three Astros who filed numbers last week.

The case will be heard before an arbitration panel on Feb. 17, when Wade and Astros president of baseball operations Tal Smith will present their argument against a case laid out by Barry Praver, the agent for Rodriguez. The panel will either choose the player's salary request or the team's offer.

"We just couldn't find common ground to get a deal done," Wade said. "I think both sides did a good job trying to find a common ground, but it wasn't there to be had. That's why the process is in place, to resolve these types of disputes.

"It's part of the business. We don't enjoy it. We pride ourselves on trying to settle all these things if at all possible. I'm sure that if Wandy had a preference, he would like to have a negotiated settlement over going to an arbitration hearing. It was something that was unavoidable."

Praver declined to comment on negotiations when reached Monday.

Wade, who was general manager when the Astros beat Jose Valverde and Mark Loretta in their most recent arbitration hearings in 2008, said animosity over going to a hearing is always an issue.

"It's something that's always in the back of our mind, particularly for a player who's never been through the process before," Wade said. "It's designed to determine where the player fits in the salary structure. It really comes down to the marketplace and comparables.

"Performance is discussed and part of the criteria, but at the end of the day the exercise is to slot the player at the appropriate numbers. Ninety-nine times out of 100 we're able to do that through the negotiating process."

Houston reached agreements with All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence ($3.5 million) on Saturday and reliever Tim Byrdak ($1.6 million) on Sunday to avoid arbitration. The Astros' seven arbitration-eligible players who have reached agreements will make a combined $11.84 million next year, including more than $8 million in raises.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.