The Brewers and reliever Carlos Villanueva agreed to a one-year, $950,000 contract on Tuesday, leaving outfielder Corey Hart as the team’s only arbitration-eligible player left unsigned.
“It seems we say this every year, but this time there’s something to it: It’s looking more and more like that one’s going to a hearing,” assistant general manager Gord Ash said of the Brewers’ negotiations with Hart.
Arbitration hearings are scheduled for Feb. 1-21 but baseball’s rules prevent Ash from revealing Hart’s date. Hart was arbitration-eligible for the first time last year and didn’t agree to his $3.25 million deal until the eve of a hearing.
Brewers director of business operations Teddy Werner is handling negotiations with Hart’s agent, Jeff Berry.
This time, Hart filed for $4.8 million, $650,000 more than the club’s $4.15 million offer. Hart had an off-year in 2009 made even more frustrating when he needed an emergency appendectomy in early August that sidelined him more than a month. He finished with a .260 batting average, 12 home runs and 48 RBIs.
Likewise, Villanueva did not have the season he expected. The right-hander was 4-10 with a 5.34 ERA in 58 relief appearances and six starts but did finish strong, with a 3.18 ERA over his final 16 appearances.
Villanueva had filed for $1.075 million in arbitration and the team offered $800,000, so the sides settled for slightly more than the midpoint. Ash handled final negotiations with Villanueva’s agent, Diego Bentz.
A deal was struck after Zach Miner of the Tigers and Robinson Tejada of the Royals avoided arbitration with identical $950,000 deals. Villanueva’s case was complicated somewhat by the fact that he has split time between the starting rotation and the bullpen.
“It is [a complicating factor] except that those other guys are the same,” Ash said. “It is a niche.”