UPDATE at 6:27 p.m. CT — I spoke to Gallardo’s agent, Bobby Witt, this afternoon, and he senses that the sides are “probably” headed to a renewal.
“The Brewers have a system in place to compensate their players, and where they have Yovani and what Yovani thinks, there is a difference there,” Witt said. “Whatever happens, by no means is Yovani going to be upset. He’s going to prepare for the season like he always does. If it does happen [a renewal] it wouldn’t be the first time and it won’t be the last.”
Back to my original post:
Yovani Gallardo is the only unsigned player on the Brewers’ 40-man roster and the deadline to reach a deal is coming fast. He isn’t sweating it.
“I was the last one last year, too, so I’m not very worried about it,” the right-hander said. “I let my agent handle that. I’m sure they’ll get something figured out.”
Gallardo, who turned 24 on Saturday and is Milwaukee’s leading candidate to start Opening Day, is a so-called “zero-to-three” player without enough service time to qualify for salary arbitration. Teams essentially can pay such players whatever they want as long as it meets the Major League minimum salary but the sides typically negotiate anyway, partly to keep things cordial for the more difficult talks later on in a player’s career. If they cannot reach a compromise, the team can renew a player’s salary at the figure of its choosing. In March 2008, for example, the Brewers renewed Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Corey Hart all on the same day.
This year, the window for renewals opened Tuesday and closes March 11 but the Brewers’ policy is to renew unsigned players before the team’s Cactus League opener. That means a deal with Gallardo must be struck on or before Thursday, when the Brewers face the Giants in Scottsdale. Gallardo is scheduled to debut on Friday against the A’s.
The Brewers attempt to take the subjectivity out of such negotiations by paying pre-arbitration players based on a system of performance- and awards-based criteria. The sticking point with Gallardo, according to Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash, who is handling negotiations with Gallardo’s agent, former Major Leaguer Bobby Witt, is that one criterion for the club’s pay scale is the Elias rankings system, which takes into account a player’s past two seasons. Since Gallardo missed most of 2008 with knee injuries, he loses points and is compensated slightly less than some Brewers who have gone through the system before him.
“To this point, we’ve agreed to disagree,” Ash said.
Witt was not immediately available to comment on his discussions with the Brewers.
Gallardo was Brewers’ final player in line for a renewal last season before he and Witt agreed to terms on a contract reportedly worth $414,000. Gallardo went on to post a 13-12 record in 2009 with a 3.73 ERA and 204 strikeouts. He ranked fifth in the National League in whiffs, and third with a .219 opponents’ batting average.
To this point, according to both Ash and Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, the sides have only spoken about a one-year contract for 2010. The Brewers have had limited talks with Witt in the past about a multi-year deal for Gallardo but were never able to find common ground.
Gallardo is on track to be arbitration-eligible following the 2010 season and would be one of the Brewers’ key cases. Fellow starter Manny Parra projects as a first-time eligible player, and Fielder, Hart and second baseman Rickie Weeks will be eligible for the final time before hitting the free agent market following the 2011 season.
Gallardo is the leading candidate to start the Brewers’ April 5 season opener against the Rockies, though manager Ken Macha has not made official his plans.