It's mid-January and that means time for salary arbitration.
Pitchers Neal Cotts, Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando, along with first baseman Mitch Moreland, will file for arbitration Tuesday. If the player and club don't agree on a contract for next season, the two sides will exchange figures on a one-year deal Friday.
Typically, deals get done between the time figures are exchanged and a hearing date is set. If both sides can't negotiate a deal, an arbitrator hears each side's arguments and chooses between the club's figure or the player's figure. There is no in-between at that point. But trading offers usually results in both sides finding enough common ground to strike a deal and get a contract signed before any hearing is necessary.
The Rangers have quite a streak going of avoiding arbitration hearings. In fact, it's never happened in the Jon Daniels era. The last Ranger to go to a hearing was Lee Stevens in 2000.
Matt Vinnola, the club's director of baseball operations and the point person in most of the arbitration cases, has been in contact with the agents and will continue his discussion this week and the next few weeks in an attempt to reach an agreement. The closest the Rangers have come to a hearing was Mike Napoli prior to the 2012 season. Vinnola was ready to go argue the club's case, but shortly before the hearing was scheduled to commence, Napoli's agent, Brian Grieper, and Daniels reached an agreement.
For Moreland, Feliz and Ogando, this is their first year of arbitration eligibility. Cotts is in his final year and will be a free agent next season. Sometimes, the Rangers have used the arbitration period to get longer-term deals done with some players. That could include packaging all of the arbitration years together so as to avoid going through this after each season (they did that with the final two of Josh Hamilton's arbitration-eligible years, for instance), or attempting to get the player under contract for at least one of what would be his free agent years in addition to the arbitration years.
It's unclear if the Rangers will try that in these cases. Feliz missed most of the 2013 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and could be the club's closer. Moreland's role has changed with the arrival of Prince Fielder and he could see time as a DH and back up Fielder at first and even play some corner outfield. Ogando heads into spring stretched out as a starter and is penciled in as a member of the rotation.