Nats avoid arbitration with four
Bergmann, Flores, Nieves, Willingham agree to deals
The Nationals took care of four arbitration-eligible players on Tuesday afternoon, when they agreed on one-year contracts with right-hander Jason Bergmann, catchers Jesus Flores and Wil Nieves and outfielder Josh Willingham.
Willingham signed for $4.6 million, while Bergmann and Flores got $750,000 contracts and Nieves inked a $700,000 deal for 2010. The contracts for Flores and Nieves also include performance incentives based on games played and plate appearances, respectively.
That leaves Brian Bruney and Sean Burnett as the only remaining arbitration-eligible players for the Nationals.
Willingham didn't sign his $2.95 million deal for the 2009 season until right before his scheduled arbitration hearing last year. The 30-year-old hit .260 with 24 homers and 61 RBIs in 133 games this past season and has been pretty steady in his four full seasons in the big leagues -- three of which have been spent with the Marlins. In that span, Willingham has put up a .265 batting average while averaging 22 homers and 69 RBIs per season.
The 25-year-old Flores, who had "Super Two" status for arbitration this year, was limited to just 29 games in 2009 -- batting .301 -- because of shoulder problems that eventually led to a September surgery, which has him questionable for Opening Day. Flores, who made just over $400,000 last season, saw his most big league action during his second season, when he played in 90 games and batted .256 with eight homers and 59 RBIs.
The 32-year-old Nieves hit .259 with a career-high 26 RBIs while playing in a career-high 72 games this past season. But with Ivan Rodriguez signed, he may not have a spot on the 25-man roster in 2010 if Flores proves he's healthy.
Bergmann went 2-4 with a 4.50 ERA in 56 games during his fifth season last year. Since 2006, the 28-year-old right-hander's ERA has gone no lower than 4.45.
Based on figures released on Tuesday in anticipation of a potential arbitration hearing next month, Washington is $350,000 apart with Bruney and $150,000 apart with Burnett. Bruney seeks $1.85 million for the 2010 season, but the Nationals submitted an offer of $1.5 million. Meanwhile, Bruney wants $925,000, with the club offering $775,000.
Arbitration hearings will be scheduled at some point between Feb. 1 and 21, though clubs can still negotiate until their respective scheduled hearings. If it does go to a hearing, one of the figures publicized on Tuesday will be selected.
Bruney made $1.25 million this past season and is going into his third year of arbitration. The 27-year-old made 44 relief appearances for the World Series-champion Yankees in 2009, going 5-0 with a 3.92 ERA and a 1.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Bruney is 16-10 with a 4.27 ERA in six seasons in the big leagues, and he notched 12 saves with the Diamondbacks in '05. He'll have a chance to compete for the closer job this season.
Burnett, also 27, is coming off a career year in his third season, one that saw him post a 3.12 ERA and a 1.110 WHIP for the Pirates and Nationals. Burnett is arbitration-eligible for the first time and made just over $400,000 in 2009. For his three-year career, he is 8-9 with a 4.35 ERA in 142 games (13 starts).
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.