Astros set deadline for negotiations

Astros set Monday deadline for negotiations

HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Ed Wade said Friday he has informed the agents for the club's three remaining arbitration players -- outfielder Hunter Pence and pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Tim Byrdak -- they have until end of business Monday to work out a deal or go to a hearing.

Players and clubs submitted salary figures last week and can try to negotiate a settlement until they go before an arbitration panel in February, but the Astros have implemented a deadline with hopes of speeding up the process and getting a deal done.

"We think that it presents ample opportunity to get things done," Wade said. "The agents for the three remaining players are aware of the deadline, and we'll continue to work through the process and do everything we can within reason to get them done."

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, while Byrdak ($1.9 million) and the Astros ($1.3 million) are $600,000 apart.

Pence, 26, is coming off an All-Star season in which he hit .282 with 25 homers and 72 RBIs. He set career highs in hits (165), steals (14), walks (58) and games and tied his career high in homers. Byrdak, 35, went 1-2 with a 3.23 ERA last year in a club-high 76 appearances.

Wade has implemented the deadline before, most recently in 2008 when the Astros prevailed over closer Jose Valverde and infielder Mark Loretta in their most recent arbitration hearings.

"We just feel that we've had the opportunity to have dialogue through the offseason with regard to contract matters, and we feel now that with the exchange of numbers both sides know what their positions are and what the comparables are," Wade said. "Can the market change sometime between now and the hearings? Sure it can.

"Realistically, there is enough data available at this point in time for us to afford a settlement. Without a deadline, you're in position where there's a lot of preparation taking place and a settlement could be reached today or all of a sudden takes place on the courthouse steps, so to speak."

Wade said it's not uncommon for clubs to establish such deadlines, and he said some teams even choose to shut down negotiations after the salary figures are exchanged.

"Some clubs do that, which is a fair and reasonable thing to do," he said. "We have decided to take a more moderate direction than that. We have all the time in the world to get these things done. It serves everybody to establish a deadline and let people bear down on the process and work out an appropriate deal."

The $2 million spread between the figure submitted by Rodriguez and the club is substantial and presents challenges, but Wade said all negotiations are different.

"Sometimes you can be $500 apart and not be able to realize a negotiated settlement," Wade said. "Every case if different, every case has different dynamics. I've been involved in a lot of negotiations here and in Philadelphia and when I worked for [president of baseball operations] Tal [Smith] on the consulting side where the spread looked substantial with no chance of getting a deal done and they did.

"I wouldn't portray where we are with the three remaining players as a situation where we'll never be able to get a deal done. We remain confident we can reach a point where the players' value is properly slotted in the salary structure or we can before an arbitration panel."

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