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Avoiding arbitration is Rays' aim as deadline looms

ST. PETERSBURG -- Friday will bring the deadline for clubs to exchange arbitration figures with players. While the Rays have already dealt with some of the team's arbitration-eligible players, there's still work to be done.

Earlier this month, the club brought David Price into the fold when it re-signed the American League Cy Young Award winner to a one-year deal for $10.1125 million, which happened well in advance of the deadline.

In addition, the Rays avoided going to arbitration with Sean Rodriguez when they agreed to a $1 million deal with the infielder in December.

Ideally, the Rays would like to reach agreements before the deadline with the remaining players who are arbitration-eligible. For starters, it gets things done so they can move on to the next obstacle in the road to prepare for the 2013 season. Perhaps most important, they want to dodge going any possibilities of going to arbitration, primarily because of the ill will that can occur when the club is forced to deal in negatives about the player.

"Our expectation is resolve all of these, and the extent we can do it well within advance of the deadline is always a good thing," said executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "But in certain negotiations, things tend to gravitate towards [not getting a deal done ahead of time]."

Remaining arbitration-eligible players include: Jeff Niemann ($2.5 million in 2012); Matt Joyce ($499,500); Reid Brignac ($490,600); Sam Fuld ($489,400); and Ryan Roberts ($2,012,500).

According to this explanation provided by the Major League Baseball Players Association, the following players are eligible for arbitration:

A player with three or more years of service, but less than six years, may file for salary arbitration. In addition, a player can be classified as a Super Two and be eligible for arbitration with less than three years of service. A player with at least two but less than three years of Major League service shall be eligible for salary arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and he ranks in the top 22 percent (increased from 17 percent in previous agreements) in total service in the class of Players who have at least two but less than three years of Major League service, however accumulated, but with at least 86 days of service accumulated during the immediately preceding season.

Once contracts are tendered, clubs can negotiate with the player right up until their arbitration hearings. However, Tampa Bay's self-imposed policy is to conclude its negotiating by the numbers filing deadline, which is Friday. The club's exception to this deadline is to negotiate a multiyear deal with the player.

Niemann was the lone Rays player who went to arbitration in 2012. He lost and played the 2012 season for the $2.75 million offered by the club rather than the $3.2 million he sought.

Tampa Bay remains unbeaten in six salary arbitration cases, and under the current Rays regime, the team is unbeaten in five cases. In addition to Niemann, the club twice won against former catcher Josh Paul, and it won against former catcher Dioner Navarro and outfielder B.J. Upton.

"I think simply said, our approach in this process is not to try and win a deal, but to arrive at a fair number," Friedman said. "We put a lot of work into that according to the arbitration guidelines. And we operate within them. I'm not exactly the biggest proponent of the system. But it is what it is. And it is incumbent upon us to do the best job we can within [the system], so our approach is always to try and do a fair deal as opposed to win a deal."

Tampa Bay Rays, Reid Brignac, Sam Fuld, Matt Joyce, Jeff Niemann, Ryan Roberts