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02/09/11 11:27 PM EST

Marcum, Brewers avoid arbitration

Weeks is final arbitration-eligible player after righty signs for 2011

MILWAUKEE -- Right-hander Shaun Marcum agreed late Wednesday to a $3.95 million contract for 2011, avoiding arbitration and ensuring that the first opponent of his Brewers tenure will be somebody other than the Brewers themselves.

Marcum and Milwaukee faced an arbitration hearing scheduled for Thursday afternoon, and by Wednesday representatives from both sides had arrived in Phoenix to make final preparations. Marcum's agent, Rex Gary, and Brewers senior director of business operations Teddy Werner met during the afternoon, then engaged in another, more intense round of negotiations in the evening and struck a deal.

They settled just below the midpoint of proposals submitted last month, when Marcum and Gary filed for $5 million and the Brewers offered $3 million. Marcum can earn $100,000 in performance incentives for innings -- $50,000 for 190 innings and another $50,000 for 200 innings -- to push his salary to or past the $4 million midpoint. The deal also includes the usual array of awards bonuses.

In that way, Marcum's deal is similar to the $1.25 million pact between the Brewers and reliever Kameron Loe, who settled just below the midpoint of his figures but can push over by earning $115,000 in available incentives.

Those incentives were the final sticking point in talks.

In that way, Marcum's deal is similar to the $1.25 million pact between the Brewers and reliever Kameron Loe, who settled just below the midpoint of his figures but can push past it by earning $115,000 in available incentives.

"The goal is always to avoid going to a hearing and coming to an agreement that both sides feel comfortable with," Werner said. "Sometimes you just have to wait it out."

With Marcum signed, the Brewers have one arbitration case yet to settle. Second baseman Rickie Weeks is seeking $7.2 million and the Brewers countered at $4.85 million, with a hearing scheduled for Feb. 17. Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash is handling that negotiation, and is working on both one-year and multi-year proposals.

It's not uncommon for these talks to enter the 11th hour. In 2008, the Brewers settled with shortstop J.J. Hardy about 24 hours before a scheduled hearing, and they did the same in '09 with outfielder Corey Hart. Last year, unable to reach an agreement with Hart, they went all the way to a hearing, the Brewers' first in 12 years.

The first arbitration case of 2011 was decided Wednesday, when a panel of judges ruled in favor of Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf.

Talks with Marcum moved forward Wednesday after one of his "comps," Angels right-hander Jered Weaver, went all the way to a hearing with the Angels. Marcum and Weaver both have four-plus years of Major League service, as does Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano, who settled with Minnesota on Saturday for $4.3 million, right at the midpoint of their figures.

"When Liriano's deal got done, that brought a little more clarity, and then I think we were just waiting to see how Weaver's deal played out," Werner said. "When they went into a hearing room, there weren't any comparables left."

The decision on Weaver's case won't be revealed until Thursday, likely after the Brewers would have gone into a hearing with Marcum.

The 29-year-old Marcum cost the Brewers their top offensive prospect, Brett Lawrie, and will be part of a remade starting rotation that includes three 2010 Opening Day starters with Marcum, Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo. After missing all of 2009 while rehabbing from Tommy John elbow surgery, Marcum bounced back to go 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 31 starts and 195 1/3 innings in 2010, impressive numbers in the tough American League East. He earned $850,000 last season.

All along, that 2010 salary gave the sides trouble. The Brewers argued that Marcum was seeking too big a year-to-year jump and pointed out that Liriano went from $1.4 million to $4.3 million. But Marcum's side argued that the '10 salary was artificially low because it was agreed to as Marcum was coming off his elbow injury.

They eventually compromised, and now the focus turns to Weeks, who said late last month that he does not want talks about a multi-year extension to persist past the date he reports to Spring Training.

Like last year's hearing with Hart, the Brewers would use outside counsel to argue a case against Weeks, if things progress that far. A three-member panel of judges would hear arguments from both sides, then issue a ruling the following day. They would choose one salary filing or the other, and would not be required to explain the decision.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.