Trio avoids arbitration with Astros

Trio avoids arbitration with Astros

HOUSTON -- Michael Bourn doesn't let much bother him. Not a prolonged slump, a strong-armed catcher or even a funky hill in center field. So it shouldn't be surprising Bourn wasn't overly concerned about his contract negotiations.

"I never really worried about it," he said.

Bourn has even less to worry about after he and the Astros avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal on Tuesday worth $2.4 million plus bonuses for the 2010 season. Houston also signed relief pitcher Matt Lindstrom ($1.625 million plus bonuses) and catcher Humberto Quintero ($750,000 plus bonuses) to avoid arbitration.

"I'm thankful and happy for it," Bourn said. "I can get that out of the way and move on to the next hurdle, which is Spring Training. I'm ready to go for that, and I'll see everybody down there."

All-Star right fielder Hunter Pence, left-hander Wandy Rodriguez and reliever Tim Byrdak weren't able to reach deals before Tuesday's deadline to exchange salary figures.

Rodriguez, who led the Astros in wins (14), starts (33), innings pitched (205 2/3) and strikeouts (193), is asking for $7 million, which is $2 million more than the club's offer of $5 million. Pence is asking for $4.1 million, and the club is offering $3.1 million, and Byrdak ($1.9 million) and the Astros ($1.3 million) are $600,000 apart.

"Our goal is always to negotiate and try to come up with settlements that satisfy both parties," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "That's the task at hand, and we'll work in that direction."

The teams and the players can negotiate up until the start of the arbitration hearings, which begin next week, but Wade said he made it clear to the agents for the remaining unsigned players that he will establish a deadline to complete a deal or go to a hearing.

"I think both parties, players and teams alike, are anxious to try to get deals done at the proper pace, and there are some dynamics in play," Wade said. "The exchange date compels both sides to get together and reach a negotiated settlement before the numbers are out there.

"Sometimes the numbers have a polarizing effect on the process. There's enough marketplace evidence available that it behooves both sides to take advantage of that."

On Tuesday, Wade praised the work of president of baseball operations Tal Smith and assistant general managers Ricky Bennett and David Gottfried for hammering out deals. Last week, Houston agreed to contracts with infielder Jeff Keppinger ($1.15 million) and relief pitcher Chris Sampson ($815,000 plus incentives) to avoid arbitration.

"I think the work David Gottfried, Ricky Bennett and Tal have done has really put us in a good position to be able to get three more arbitration-eligible players signed before the exchange of numbers," Wade said. "We're still optimistic that we'll get Byrdak and Wandy and Pence done before we ever get to a hearing. It's good to get these issues off the table and allow us to focus on Spring Training and getting the club ready."

Coming off a year in which he set career highs in nearly every offensive category, led the National League with 61 stolen bases and won a Rawlings Gold Glove, Bourn, 27, will see his salary increase by nearly $2 million from last year's $435,000.

"I was never worried about that part of it," Bourn said. "I just have to go out there and play. I'm going to worry about 2010 and just take the process as it comes. It's a new year and a new Spring Training, and we'll try to do it all over again."

Lindstrom, 29, was acquired from Florida last month in exchange for three Minor Leaguers and was eligible for arbitration for the first time. In three seasons with the Marlins, he was one of the club's most dependable relievers. He appeared in 54 games and had 13 saves in 15 chances in 2009.

Lindstrom, who made $410,000 last year, opened the season as Florida's closer, but he went down with a forearm injury in May.

Quintero, 30, hit .236 with four homers and 14 RBIs last year in 60 games, starting 51 games at catcher. He's a veteran of seven Major League seasons, spending time with San Diego (2003-04) and Houston ('05-09) and is a career .232 hitter.

"Everybody's important," Wade said. "There are a group of guys on this club who are centerpieces of the ballclub, and certainly we believe what Wandy and Hunter and Michael have accomplished at this stage of their careers is very significant.

"We're prepared to pay what the market bears for talent and we've never taken a contrary position. We're prepared to pay when players step up and do the types of things to make us better."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.