Aybar, Navarro will go to arbitration

Aybar, Navarro will go to arbitration

ST. PETERSBURG -- Dioner Navarro and Willy Aybar are headed to arbitration with the Rays.

Tampa Bay negotiated with representatives for both players right up until Tuesday's noon ET deadline to exchange figures, but it could not reach an agreement with either before the club's self-imposed deadline to settle cases passed.

"I'm not gong to get into the specifics of either of those negotiations," said Rays senior vice president baseball operations Gerry Hunsicker. "I think that is confidential and should remain confidential. I would say that we had genuine and serious dialogue right up to the noon deadline today with both parties."

Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman implemented the policy of ending talks at that point. Thus, both players will have hearings in front of an arbitrator between Feb. 1-21.

Hunsicker was speaking in Friedman's absence as Friedman is on his honeymoon.

Navarro, 24, enjoyed a breakout season in 2008, hitting .295 with seven home runs and 54 RBIs. In addition, the Rays catcher threw out 35.7 percent (25 of 70) of runners attempting to steal, ranking third in the Major Leagues. He made $412,500 in '08, along with a $10,000 bonus for making the All-Star team. The club submitted a figure of $2.1 million, while Navarro is seeking $2.5 million.

Aybar, 25, hit .253 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs in 95 games after coming to the Rays in a trade with the Braves prior to the 2008 season. He made $401,200 in '08 and is seeking to make $1.05 million, while the club is offering $900,000.

"I can speak for the club's perspective: we were both hoping that we could avoid having to file numbers," Hunsicker said. "But at the end of the day, we were not successful. So as the players and the agents are aware, we do have a file-and-go strategy, which essentially means that if we can't reach an agreement with these players prior to filing numbers that that will be the end of the negotiations and we will let an arbitrator decide what an appropriate salary will be for these two players."

Hunsicker explained the rationale behind the Rays' hard-line stance.

"Typically you don't get a deal done until the 11th hour, so by implementing this strategy, we've essentially tried to move the 11th hour up to now," Hunsicker said. "As opposed to a month from now or three weeks from now when a hearing takes place."

Hunsicker said the club policy will be adhered to and there will be no further negotiating with either Navarro or Aybar, which is possible under the rules.

Hot Stove
"That is our policy and it's not something that we've used in a threatening way," Hunsicker said. "We've been open and forthright with the players and their representatives. The players fully understand that from the beginning of the process. They understand what our policy is. And in these cases and in future cases, as long as we have this as our policy, we will not enter into any additional dialogue after we file numbers."

Hunsicker said he has been around the business long enough not to be surprised that the Rays were not able to get deals done with Navarro and Aybar.

"It's a very challenging business with regard to the arbitration process," Hunsicker said. "Each case is unique, they all have their own challenges. There are a lot of factors individually that affect each case. And many times you really don't know what those factors are.

"I've always believed that if two sides are reasonable in their approach and are committed to working toward an agreement that you can find a way to reach an agreement. Fortunately, in the overwhelming majority of cases, that turns out to be true. Past that, I can't say that I'm surprised, just disappointed."

One of the major concerns by any team when players go to arbitration hearings is the possibility of ill feelings toward the club if the team wins the award.

"I first would say, generally, from a management standpoint, this puts the club in a somewhat difficult position, because obviously, they are our assets," Hunsicker said. "They are a part of our organization -- a very important part of our organization. And I've been in hearings where players take things that they hear at a hearing differently. Some players take offense to it and it can be very disruptive and lingering. And others understand this is just part of the business side of the game."

Hunsicker added that he believes it is the responsibility of both the club and the player's representative to get the player to understand that an arbitration hearing is business.

"[They need to understand] that this is not something we're going into in an adversarial way," Hunsicker said. "We won't hold this against the player or the representative. It's merely a process that's available to both parties through the Basic Agreement when you can't reach an agreement on an appropriate salary between the parties.

"So as an organization, we will go out of our way in these two cases to make sure the players understand that there are certainly no hard feelings on our part and we're merely doing our job presenting this case -- like the player's representative had to do in representing his client -- and, hopefully, the players will understand that. And when the hearing is over, we shake hands and we move forward, united, and we get on with the business at hand."

Josh Paul is the only player to go to arbitration during Friedman's tenure and the backup catcher lost on both occasions.

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