Deadline to avoid hearing with J.D. fast approaching

Talks between Tigers, slugger have not yielded a deal

January 28th, 2016

DETROIT -- Time is running out for the Tigers and J.D. Martinez to avoid an arbitration hearing. While optimism remains for a deal to be worked out, there's also an acknowledgment that Detroit could be headed toward its first hearing in 15 years.

While general manager Al Avila didn't want to comment on negotiations when he talked with reporters following Wednesday's Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association luncheon, he did say there were no new developments.

Thus, the gap remains with hearings scheduled to begin next week. And a process that began with potential interest in a long-term deal earlier this offseason is now focused on finding common ground on a 2016 salary first.

"I still have hope that we can get something done," Avila said.

Martinez is eligible for arbitration for a second time after batting .282 (168-for-596) with 33 doubles, 38 home runs, 102 RBIs, an .879 OPS and 15 outfield assists last season. The sides exchanged salary proposals earlier this month. The Tigers filed at $6 million, while Martinez and his agent filed at $8 million. An arbitrator must choose one or the other, not find a spot in between.

Hearings are scheduled for Feb. 1-21. The specific date isn't officially released, though they tend to happen sooner than later so that teams and players can move on and focus on Spring Training. The sides can negotiate all the way up until a hearing begins.

The Tigers haven't faced an arbitration ruling since Dave Dombrowski took over GM duties in 2002. Current Tigers assistant GM John Westhoff has been a huge part of that streak as chief negotiator, first under Dombrowski and now under Avila. But while Avila also has been part of that process, he downplayed the significance Wednesday.

"That really doesn't play into this," Avila said. "I think the media makes more of it than really what it is. We've been fortunate enough where two sides can negotiate and come to a middle ground and an agreement, and that's fine. …

"If you have to go, you have to go, but we'd rather not. We've been able to do deals in the past."