I’ve never found these arbitration-avoiding signings to be too exciting. And if they don’t sign the guy and move to arbitration, again, I am rarely glued to the hearing. But it is still good to see that the Nats were able to come to terms with 4 out of the 6 players with whom they were negotiating. Arbitration hearings can often cause a rift between players and the organization. The team offers $X million, and the player counters with $X million plus $Y million. In order to justify the $Y million, the player talks about how great he is. In order to avoid paying the extra $Y million, the team talks about how much the guy sucks. Sometimes the player walks away thinking, “Boy, this team really doesn’t appreciate me.” In truth, they are just trying to save money and keep the player. But sometimes when players forget its just business, they may cause some bad feelings that don’t go away when it’s time for free agency.

So it is good news that they signed they players that they did. Highest up on the list was Josh Willingham, who got rewarded for his good season with a contract of $4.6 million. It’s up from last year as were his numbers. The only thing he has left to do is keep his high early season numbers going all year. In 2010 he will have the 5th highest salary on the team, behind Dunn, Guzman, Marquis,and Zimmerman, unless they sign another free agent for more. They also came to terms with Jason Bergmann, who had a very good second half of the season. He had a 3.48 ERA from July to the end of the year in 42 appearances and 33 2/3 IP. His salary of $750,000 is more than reasonable for what he was able to do, and if he keeps it up, it will be a bargain.

As for the yet-undisclosed numbers, they also agreed to terms with Jesus Flores, who had great numbers last year, but did it in a short amount of time. If he had even 200 plate appearances, his .877 OPS would have put him first among NL catchers, 3rd overall with that many. But his meager 106 PAs limited any real value add to the team. I’m really hoping for something big from him this season, but I said that last year, too. Speaking of catchers, they decided to retain Wil Nieves, a catcher who is very impressive defensively, if not so much with the bat. I was a little surprised they kept him, after acquiring Ivan Rodriguez in free agency. But Flores may not be ready to start the season, so they would need someone to play the primary backup until he is. I am assuming they felt the deal with Nieves was worth it over finding someone else to play that role off the waiver wire.

As for the guys who didn’t sign, Brian Bruney and Sean Burnett, it can still be figured out but may go to arbitration. Bruney is asking for $1.85 million, the Nats are offering $1.5. Burnett wants $925,000, and the team is offering $775,000. They aren’t that far apart, and my guess is they will get these done before the ugliness of arbitration hearings.

By Charlie