Detroit avoids arbitration with three

Detroit avoids arbitration with three Tigers

DETROIT -- On the day the Tigers were to exchange figures with their arbitration-eligible players, the Tigers signed all but one of them, agreeing to terms Tuesday on one-year deals with Jeremy Bonderman, Carlos Pena and Chris Spurling.

The signings leave Craig Monroe as the lone player left to either reach a deal or go to arbitration.

Pena, a second-time arbitration-eligible player, will make $2.8 million this season, up from $2.575 million last year. Bonderman will make $2.3 million this season, while Spurling will make $725,000.

All three deals came together on Tuesday after talks that continued through the weekend.
"I actually thought, going into the morning, that we'd have to have four cases," Tigers executive vice president and legal counsel John Westhoff said. "You always have a lot of negotiations going on in advance, but the deals came together this morning. It's driven by the deadline."

The 27-year-old Pena will receive a pay raise after a topsy-turvy year that saw him lose his starting job at first base, spend much of the summer at Triple-A Toledo, then return to Detroit late in the season to reclaim his role as one of the top sluggers on the team. He hit .235 for the season with 18 home runs and 44 RBIs in 79 games. His stronger numbers were a .286 average, 15 homers and 30 RBIs in 38 games upon his return from the Minors.

Bonderman was eligible for arbitration for the first time at age 23, coming off a season in which he tied for the team lead with a career-high 14 wins. He earned All-Star consideration with an 11-5 record at the break before elbow soreness bothered him down the stretch. He posted a 4.57 ERA to go with his 14-13 record and 145 strikeouts over 189 innings. On Monday, was named to the initial roster for Team USA in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

Though fellow starter Mike Maroth signed a two-year contract last week, a multi-year deal was not on the table with Bonderman or the other two players.

Though Spurling has only pitched for two seasons at the big-league level, his year on the disabled list after Tommy John surgery in 2004 counted toward his service time. He returned from rehab to put together a solid comeback season last year with a 3-4 record, 3.44 ERA and .230 batting average allowed. He allowed a 1.66 ERA at Comerica Park compared to 5.51 on the road.

With those contracts complete, the Tigers will focus their efforts on talks with Monroe, a first-year arbitration-eligible player coming off his first season as an everyday starting outfielder, and his agent Adam Katz. He batted .277 with 20 home runs, 30 doubles and a team-leading 89 RBIs.

The Tigers have not gone to arbitration with a player since Dave Dombrowski assumed general manager duties in 2002. Though this is the first time in that span they've gotten this far into the process with a player, that doesn't necessarily mean they'll go to a hearing.

"I just view this as the next step in the process," Westhoff said.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.