Miguel Cabrera was awarded a $7.4 million salary in arbitration
from the Marlins, who offered $6.7 million.
BY MIKE PHILLIPS
JUPITER - Miguel Cabrera 1, Marlins 0.
Well, actually it was a little more. Cabrera was awarded $7.4 million by winning his arbitration hearing with the Marlins, who wanted to pay the National League's second-leading hitter from last season $6.7 million in 2007.
It was the third-highest amount awarded in an arbitration case. Outfielder Alfonso Soriano lost his arbitration hearing last year against the Nationals and settled for $10 million, and Braves center fielder Andruw Jones was awarded $8.2 million in 2001.
A panel of three arbitrators listened to both sides Friday in Arizona and handed down their decision Saturday afternoon. Cabrera would have been the Marlins' highest-paid player regardless of the decision. Pitcher Dontrelle Willis' $6.45 million salary this season is second-highest.
The bigger question is how much did it really cost the Marlins? The Marlins were not only upset with Cabrera when he failed to show up at the team's FanFest last Saturday, but Marlins president David Samson was vocal about it.
Many teams try to avoid arbitration by offering multiyear deals because of the fear of bad blood between player and management. During Dave Dombrowski's tenure as the Marlins' general manager and president, the team had only one arbitration hearing in 10 years -- Charles Johnson in 1998. They had two arbitration cases this year.
That backfired on the Marlins in 2001, when several players were given multiyear deals that proved to be too expensive for the production on the field.
Cabrera, 23, has three years and 101 days of big-league experience and will be eligible for free agency after the 2009 season. It is uncertain if he will have a future with the Marlins at that point. Management hopes there are no lingering effects from the arbitration hearing, which came less than a week after the FanFest incident.
''The FanFest is old news,'' Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest said.
``It's mutually exclusive from this [arbitration].
``I don't believe there's any bad blood at all. We're respectful of the process. I have a good relationship with Miggy.''
Pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report Saturday, and many of the Marlins' position players showed up early. Beinfest said he expects Cabrera to report to spring training on time for the team's first full-squad workout Wednesday.
Beinfest said Cabrera would ``be here on Monday, get a physical on Tuesday and be ready Wednesday.''
Cabrera received got the highest signing bonus for a 16-year-old undrafted free agent in 1999 when the Marlins gave him a then-record $1.8 million bonus. He reached the big leagues in 2003 and has been one of the best bargains.
Because ownership controls salaries during the first three years of a player's career, Cabrera made only $472,000 last year while batting .339, with 26 home runs and 114 RBI. This was his first year of arbitration eligibility, and he became the first player to win a hearing this year. Owners had been 4-0.
In arbitration, each side presents a number and there is no compromise -- just a winner and a loser.
''The arbitrators decided his way, and that's the way the process works,'' Beinfest said. ``We had budgeted either for a loss or a win. Miguel is a great player. He's up in the elite-type players. He's one of the elite first-time players ever.
``We're respectful to the process and welcome him into camp. . . . We move on.''