Nats offer arbitration to Guillen

Guillen offered salary arbitration by Nationals

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals offered salary arbitration to free-agent outfielder Jose Guillen, but declined to offer arbitration to catcher/first baseman Robert Fick and right-handers Tony Armas Jr. and Ramon Ortiz.

The news about Guillen doesn't come as a surprise even though he missed most of the second half of the 2006 season following elbow reconstruction surgery. The Nationals will get a 2007 draft pick because Guillen, who is a Type B free agent, is expected to sign with the Mariners. Guillen has until Thursday to accept arbitration.

Nationals general manager Jim Bowden was unavailable for comment.

Guillen recently told MLB.com that he already is swinging a bat and vows to be ready for Spring Training.

Guillen had an up-and-down career in Washington. He was one of the reasons the Nationals were in first place during the first half of the 2005 season, thanks to his clutch hitting, but a shoulder injury hampered his skills as Washington struggled during the second half.

This past season, Guillen, 30, hit .216 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs before being placed on the disabled list on July 20. It marked the second time Guillen was placed on the DL in 2006. He earlier missed two weeks because of a left hamstring strain.

There was no room for Guillen on the Nationals' roster in '07, after Austin Kearns blossomed in right field and the team made a commitment to giving Kory Casto and Ryan Church a chance to win the left-field job.

Even though they didn't offer Ortiz, Armas and Fick arbitration, the Nationals can still try to sign them according to the new collective bargaining agreement. It's doubtful, though, that they will be back.

Ortiz is a Type B free agent, but according to sources outside the Nationals organization, the team was not willing to take the righty to arbitration because he would have gotten a raise to about $8 million for 2007. Some members of the "think tank" believed Ortiz would have accepted arbitration.

Ortiz made $2.5 million this past season and ended up being Washington's top starter, going 11-16 with a 5.57 ERA. His best game was against the Cardinals on Sept. 4, when he came within three outs of throwing the Nationals' first no-hitter. Ortiz also hit a solo home run in the game.

Despite being inconsistent on the mound, Ortiz was often praised for his work ethic and positive attitude. In fact, then-manager Frank Robinson often used Ortiz as a pinch-runner.

Armas was 9-12 with a 5.03 ERA in 2006. The Nationals were frustrated that Armas had a tough time getting past the fifth inning. But if there are any positives out of Armas' season, it's the fact that he didn't have any shoulder problems for the first time since 2002. Armas had a forearm problem in June, but he considered that a bump in the road.

Fick hit .266 with two home runs and nine RBIs, and Washington was 11-7 when he started behind the plate.

What keeps Fick from coming back is the fact that he is a left-handed-hitting catcher, and the Nationals already have one in starter Brian Schneider. Washington has a right-handed-hitting backstop in Brandon Harper, who was a pleasant surprise and is the odds-on favorite to be Schneider's backup.

Armas and Fick are Type C free agents, meaning Washington would not receive draft picks if they sign elsewhere.

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