Brewers officials say they are making steady but slow progress with their two remaining arbitration-eligible players, and will get a chance to chat in person with second baseman Rickie Weeks and right-hander Shaun Marcum at Sunday’s “Brewers On Deck” event.
Neither assistant general manager Gord Ash, who is handling talks with Weeks agent Greg Genske, nor senior director of business operations Teddy Werner, who is engaged with agent Rex Gary on Marcum, could report any breakthroughs this week.
“We continue to have dialogue but nothing new to report,” Ash wrote in an e-mail Thursday morning, when club officials were meeting with manager Ron Roenicke and the Brewers’ new coaching staff at Miller Park.
Weeks and Genske filed for $7.2 million in arbitration and the Brewers countered at $4.85 million, a gap of $2.345 million. The midpoint of figures is $6.025 million.
Weeks earned $2.75 million in 2010 and had a breakthrough year, leading the Majors in home runs (28), RBIs (81) and runs scored (110) from the leadoff spot. But his case is complicated because many of Weeks’ previous seasons had been marred by injuries, especially to his hands and wrists.
Marcum earned $850,000 from the Blue Jays in 2010 and also enjoyed a career year, returning from a year lost to Tommy John elbow surgery to go 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 31 starts. The Brewers acquired him in early December for top prospect Brett Lawrie.
Marcum and Gary filed for $5 million in arbitration and the Brewers offered $3 million.
“I would say [talks] have been productive, and I have a very good history with Rex Gary, who also represents Dave Bush,” said Werner, referring to the former Brewers right-hander who settled with the team last winter well ahead of an arbitration hearing. “We’ve been through this process before.”
In both cases, the Brewers’ talks could hinge on other players in Weeks’ and Marcum’s service class.
In Weeks’ case a very close comparable is Kelly Johnson of the D-backs, a fellow second baseman with five-plus years of Major League service coming off the most productive season of his career. Johnson made $2.35 million in ’10 (to Weeks’ $2.75 million) while hitting .274 with a .370 on-base percentage, 26 homers, 71 RBIs and 13 stolen bases (to Weeks’ .269/.366/29/83/11). Johnson’s filing figures were also similar — he’s seeking $6.5 million in arbitration and Arizona offered $4.7 million.
A settlement by either Weeks or Johnson could certainly impact the other player.
In Marcum’s case, the sides likely have a close eye on talks between the Twins and left-hander Francisco Liriano and the Angels and right-hander Jered Weaver. Like Marcum, those pitchers have between four and five years of Major League service and are seeking raises of at least $3 million.
Liriano earned $1.6 million in 2010 and filed last week for $5 million in arbitration, while the Twins offered $3.6 million. Compare that to Marcum seeking $5 million and the Brewers’ offer of $3 million.
Weaver has had more sustained Major League success than either Liriano or Marcum, and thus his figures are higher. He earned $4.265 million last season from the Angels and filed for $8.8 million, with the team offering $7.365 million. The Angels have begun talks with Weaver about a multi-year extension, owner Arte Moreno told reporters on Wednesday.
A one-year settlement in Weaver’s case above or below the midpoint of filings could impact Liriano or Marcum because they’re all in the same service class.
Werner declined to talk about other teams and their arbitration-eligible players. But based on his own talks about Marcum and his understanding of the club’s negotiations with Weeks, he characterized the progress as positive.
“There’s been a lot of back and forth, which is good,” Werner said.
A hearing is already scheduled for both Weeks and Marcum sometime in February, though Major League Baseball bars club officials from revealing the dates.