Braden among A's still facing arbitration

Braden among A's still facing arbitration

Braden among A's still facing arbitration
OAKLAND -- A's hurlers Dallas Braden and Craig Breslow are slated to receive substantial raises before they throw their first pitches of the 2011 season, as the pair of southpaws prepare for their first go at the arbitration process.

Newly acquired outfielder Josh Willingham, outfielder Conor Jackson, third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and right-handed reliever Brad Ziegler are also eligible for arbitration. The six A's players were tendered contracts for the 2011 season in advance of the Dec. 2 deadline, but they have yet to agree on deals.

Outfielder Ryan Sweeney and righty Joey Devine were among that group as well, but both quickly came to terms on a contract by mid-December to avoid arbitration. Sweeney, pegged as the club's fourth or fifth outfielder for 2011, received a one-year, $1.4 million contract. Devine, meanwhile, agreed on a one-year deal worth approximately $560,000 as he looks to return to a big league mound for the first time since 2008 after enduring a long Tommy John rehab process.

Beginning Wednesday, Braden, Breslow, Willingham, Jackson, Kouzmanoff and Ziegler have 10 days to file for arbitration, a time span which gives the players and the club time to strike a deal. Each player and the club then exchange offers on Jan. 18. If the sides can't reach an agreement on a contract, a three-person panel will conduct a hearing and assign the player either the club's offer or his offer -- nothing in between -- as his salary for 2011.

However, filing for salary arbitration is merely procedural in most cases. All six remaining arbitration-eligible A's players are expected to come to agreements with Oakland before their hearings, which would be scheduled sometime between Feb. 1-21.

Breslow, who made $425,000 in 2010, is coming off the strongest campaign of his career. The 30-year-old lefty made a team-leading 75 appearances for the A's, which also ranked second among all American League relievers. Through 74 2/3 innings, which ranked fourth in the AL, Breslow registered a 3.01 ERA and set an Oakland record for strikeouts by a left-handed reliever with 71.

His presence was key down the stretch, as the A's battled multiple injury woes in the bullpen, most notably in the form of closer Andrew Bailey (right elbow) and Jerry Blevins (left hip/shoulder) and Michael Wuertz (left thumb).

Braden, who handed baseball an unforgettable day in 2010 by way of a Mother's Day perfect game, will be seeking to up his previously garnered $420,000 paycheck. He finished the season with an 11-14 record despite a 3.50 ERA, as he had the fourth-lowest run support in the AL (3.60). The 27-year-old southpaw ranked fifth in the league in fewest walks per nine innings (2.01) and tied for the league lead with two shutouts while also ranking fourth in complete games (5).

Fellow hurler Ziegler, who took home $410,000 last year, is tackling his first arbitration eligibility after earning Super Two status. The 31-year-old sidearmer endured a shaky season, pitching to a 3-7 record with a 3.26 ERA in 64 appearances. The losses were a career-high and tied for most among AL relievers. Ziegler, who did not save a game for the first time in three seasons, also yielded four homers in 60 2/3 innings after allowing just four over his previous 133 innings.

Away from the mound, outfielders Willingham and Jackson spent parts of the 2010 season on the disabled list but will still be looking toward a pay hike. Willingham, who will turn 32 in February, earned $4.6 million last year and is now geared for his third and final season of arbitration eligibility. He'll become a free agent prior to the 2012 season, though general manager Billy Beane said after Willingham's Dec. 16 signing that he'd talk to his agent about whether a contract extension might make sense for both parties.

Willingham hit .268 with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs in 114 games for the Nationals in 2010, before missing most of the last month and a half with a left knee problem. Jackson, unfortunately, managed to miss even more time, as he played in just 60 games -- 42 with Arizona and 18 with Oakland -- due to various injuries. The 28-year-old outfielder, who will likely join Sweeney on the bench as one of the club's extra outfielders this year, earned $3.1 million in 2010.

Kouzmanoff, Oakland's other arbitration-eligible player, also made $3.1 million but, like Jackson, shouldn't expect too hefty of a raise. The 29-year-old third baseman put together the worst offensive performance of his career in 2010, compiling career lows in batting average (.247), on-base percentage (.283), slugging percentage (.396) and OPS (.679). However, he still managed to lead the club in home runs with 16 and tie Kurt Suzuki in RBIs with 71.

The A's have had much success with avoiding arbitration hearings, so it's likely they'll come to contract terms with Breslow, Braden, Ziegler, Willingham, Jackson, Kouzmanoff and Jackson before a trial is necessary.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.