Navarro’s Bluff is Called by the Rays
When I first heard that Dioner Navarro was going to go to arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays, I truly thought the guy might be the first player to win a arbitration case since Rays G M Andrew Friedman took over the reins. It seemed that put side-by-side with the Kansas City Royals catcher John Buck, Navarro has superior numbers and also meant more to his team. With that in mind, it also would have been a foregone conclusion that Navarro would have been granted his request for $ 2.5 million dollars.
But Navarro somehow did not get his dream, even though the final amount is still a huge increase from his 2008 salary, Navarro had to settle for the Rays amount of $ 2.1 million dollars. But the drama of the hearing was not that Navarro lost, it was the pre-hearing chatter of his representative Kendall Almerico might not have made any new friends in the Rays front office after issuing the following statement a few days before Navarro’s scheduled arbitration hearing to the St Petersburg Times : “It appears that we have reached an impasse and that we will be going to arbitration on Monday. After that, I hope to resume negotiations on a long-term deal so Navi can play in Tampa for the rest of his career. But that may depend on how the Rays present their case and whether the Rays treat Navi respectfully at the hearing as Navi has instructed us to treat the Rays throughout this entire process.”
Could this strong approach have any impact on the hearing. You bet it did. It might have postured the Rays up against the invisible wall and they came out fighting. We are not available to get access to the hearing notes and testimony, but you can guess that the hired dogs for the Rays went after Navarro because of the statements from Almerico. But did the statements also maybe bring the Rays talks with Navarro about a multi-year deal to a close, or will that chat begin again after both side lick their wounds a bit this spring.
With the victory, Friedman is now 3-0 in arbitration hearing as a boss. Sometimes I think it was not about the $ 400,000 but about the way his representative might have gone so boldfaced up against the team. Of course the Rays have Navarro under their control until at least 2011, so could this be the first of two stalemates between the two parties. Teams have been known to hold grudges, but so far in Friedman’s watch, the proceedings have been professional and without drama. So why would a representative of a player go “Rambo” on management and try to engage in a battle of words before a hearing?
It might have been show and go this year, but you can be sure that the same act will not follow in any talks after the 2009 season. Could Almerico have cost Navarro his extra salary, or did the Rays just come prepared no matter what? We might never know the true dealings from the hearing, but it might be a reminder to future Rays arbitration hearing opponents to not stir the pot before the hearing. Also a thought here, Navarro has 3 seasons until he is a free agent. Could this fiasco have cost him his multi-year deal for the next three years plus his first free agent season? You have to think that the Rays brain trust will be deciding that matter after this vocal outburst by Almerico.
And if they do go again to arbitration, or even consider a multi-year contract, will Almerico be at Navarro’s side? You might hope not because the Rays will have long memories concerning his 2009 outbursts, and a player doesn’t deserve to have his contract reduced because of the loose lips of his management team leader. Contract negotiation are hard enough without people bringing the drama and circus atmosphere into it all.
Going into the room in Phoenix, Navarro’s team might have thought they had an advantage over the Rays in regard to statistics and also his first All-Star selection, but in the end, could Almerico’s statements before the hearing just fired up the Rays team and they called Almerico’s bluff. You would think that most of the chatter before the hearing was to posture themselves into a better position heading into the room. But in actuality, it might have just worked themselves into a corner and the Rays went after the team with both fists to prove their superiority in the room.
After the announcement of the loss in arbitration, a more even toned and beaten Almerico told ESPN.com , “[Navarro] wants to thank the Rays organization for making this a fair debate and for handling the hearing with class. He is very excited to report to spring training and is looking forward to helping the team get back to the World Series.” Is there more of a story here, could the Rays have given any indication during the hearing that a multi-year contract might still be on the table, but they had to show their skills to Almerico to remind him who plays the money here.
I actually think the bluff that Almerico tried to pull on the Rays was comical at best. Here is an organization that is 4-0 overall in total arbitration hearing since they joined the league, and Friedmans group has squashed the last three himself. With Almerico taken down a few notches by the team in arbitration, could the Rays be now ready to swoop in and get Navarro at a good price. Almerico and Navarro both know now what they might have in store for themselves for the nest 3 years, and finding a middle ground for a contract might be the order of the day now.
Friedman doesn’t look like much of a poker player. He tends to show a lot of his thoughts on his young face, but in this negotiation, could he have become a stone cold poker faced winner, who now has set his sights on getting Navarro in the fold for the next three seasons. I would not doubt that they might already have a contract outlined and ready to submit to Navarro again, with the 2009 arbitration salary already in place within the confines of the contract. Navarro was not beaten in the hearing on his past efforts or even his increased leadership on the field. He was beaten by a guy who knows what he wants and strives daily to get just that. And I would think maybe Friedman went to Las Vegas for a few hands after the hearing………he is just money right now and might be for a long, long time.
Photo credits for today’s blog go to members dbadair and unforth of Flicker.com.