Wigginton, McClung avoid arbitration

Rays avoid arbitration with Wigginton, McClung

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Devil Rays avoided going to arbitration with utilityman Ty Wigginton and pitcher Seth McClung, but they are heading toward a hearing with catcher Josh Paul.

"Well, it's nice to get these cases behind us," executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said about signing Wigginton and McClung. "They're very time consuming. I think both sides felt it was important to come to a resolution."

Wigginton, who started 116 games at five different positions in 2006, signed a one-year deal for $2.7 million with incentives. The 29-year-old led the team and set career highs with home runs (24) and RBIs (79) in 2006. He also led the team with 25 doubles and 30 game-tying or go-ahead RBIs while hitting .275.

Wigginton signed with the Rays as a free agent in January 2006 after he had a down year with the Pirates in '05.

"Last year coming off everything that happened in Pittsburgh, I was just excited to catch on with another team, and the Devil Rays gave me that opportunity," said Wigginton, noting that the Rays felt like a good fit from the beginning. "Ever since I went to Spring Training last year with Tampa Bay, I was treated like I was in a first-class organization. As the season went along, I got to know the coaches, [Joe] Maddon was amazing, the coaches are great -- I really think there's a bright future there."

Friedman said the Rays were happy to reward Wigginton for a job well done in 2006.

"When a player goes out and has a good year like Wiggy did, we're happy to pay for it," said Friedman, noting he hopes Wigginton repeats his performance in 2007, which would make the Rays reward him even more next year.

McClung, who spent time as a starter and reliever, signed a one-year deal for $750,000 plus incentives. The 26-year-old right-hander went 6-12 with a 6.29 ERA in 39 appearances for the Rays in 2006.

After a midseason stint at Triple-A Durham, McClung returned to the Rays as a reliever, serving as the team's closer late in the season. He converted six saves in seven opportunities.

"I just wanted to make sure it was good for both sides," McClung said. "I didn't want it to get ugly -- sometimes arbitration can get ugly. It was good we could come to an agreement. ... I'm really excited about the opportunity I have this year about coming in and helping the team."

Paul, 31, appeared in 58 games and had 146 at-bats, which were both career highs. His 4.61 catcher's ERA ranked lowest among the Rays' three regular catchers. Paul hit .260 with one home run and eight RBIs in 2006.

Tampa Bay has not reached an agreement with Paul, which will lead to an arbitration hearing since the Rays have established a new policy in which the team will not negotiate once the deadline passes. The Rays are offering $625,000 for one year, while Paul is asking for $940,000.

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