The Brewers remain in a contractual standoff with right-fielder Corey Hart and appear almost certain to go all the way to an arbitration hearing in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Thursday afternoon.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel was first to report the top-secret date of Hart’s hearing, and two Brewers officials confirmed it. Hart’s hearing comes on the first date of trials between teams and their still-unsigned arbitration-eligible players, and he may be the first hearing of the year, though Brewers officials cannot be sure.
Hart, who earned $3.25 million last season in his first year of eligibility, filed for $4.8 million this time and is represented by agent Jeff Berry. The Brewers countered with a $4.15 million offer and have not spoken with Berry since Jan. 29, when a team-imposed deadline passed without a compromise.
Either way, Hart will be a Brewer in 2010 and will get at least a $900,000 raise. But for now, the sides remain in disagreement over his value.
“There has been no movement,” Brewers negotiator Teddy Werner said. “I haven’t spoken to Jeff since two Fridays ago when we made that hard deadline. We’re certainly open to getting a deal done before hand because nobody really wants to go to a hearing. But the way the discussions have evolved, it appears we are headed that way.”
Berry was not immediately available to comment.
Werner and assistant general manager Gord Ash were scheduled to take a Tuesday afternoon flight from snowy Milwaukee to Tampa-St. Petersburg ahead of Thursday’s hearing. If it goes that far, it would be the Brewers’ first arbitration hearing since they lost a case to pitcher Jose Mercedes in 1998.
Only three players have gone all the way to a hearing with the Brewers. Mercedes won in ’98, but the Brewers successfully argued against pitcher Mike Fetters in 1995 and infielder Jim Gantner in 1992.
The process has evolved over the years, but today, each side presents a 60-minute oral argument to a three-member panel of judges along with a binder of statistics and graphs supporting its case. After a very brief recess, each side then has 30 minutes of rebuttal.
After that, it’s up to the arbitrators. They have 24 hours to render a decision and must pick one figure or the other. There’s no more room for compromise.
While the Brewers are waiting for the decision on Hart on Friday, they will be paying close attention to the Giants’ scheduled case with ace right-hander Tim Lincecum, who is seeking a record $13 million in arbitration. If Lincecum wins, it could affect the Brewers’ negotiations next year with right-hander Yovani Gallardo and left-hander Manny Parra, who are both eligible for arbitration for the first time.