It got done in a hurry. Melvin and Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash traveled Tuesday to Florida expecting to attend a 9:30 a.m. ET hearing on Wednesday against Clark and his agent, Bobby Barad. Clark had filed for $3.5 million in arbitration while the Brewers offered $3 million, and neither side seemed ready to budge.
Both sides met throughout the day Tuesday and finally came to terms on a one-year contract at about 1:45 a.m., less than eight hours before the scheduled hearing. It was announced later Wednesday morning.
But the groundwork had already been laid for a second year, and after Melvin and Ash had returned to Milwaukee and Barad to New York, it was finalized with one phone call.
Clark will earn $3.2 million in 2006 and $3.8 million in 2007. There are no incentives involved, Melvin said.
Why add the second year? Clark, who originally entered professional baseball as an undrafted free agent with the Reds in 1996, gets the security that comes with a guaranteed two-year contract. And if he performs anything like he did in 2005, the Brewers will save significantly on his 2007 salary.
Clark led the Brewers in 2005 with a .306 batting average and 94 runs scored. He earned a $1.15 million base salary but bumped his pay to $1.425 million with incentives.
He made the most of his first season as an everyday player and ably replaced the popular Scott Podsednik, who was traded to the White Sox in a deal that brought All-Star left fielder Carlos Lee to Milwaukee. Clark is penciled in again as the Brewers' Opening Day center fielder and likely leadoff hitter.
"He wants to be the center fielder but at the same time this deal gives us an opportunity to experiment with other players, too," Melvin said. "Brady doesn't have to look over his shoulder wondering whether we're doing it because we're going to dump him."
Nelson Cruz, Gabe Gross, Bill Hall, Corey Hart and Dave Krynzel are among the players with a chance to see time in center field this season. Clark has played all three outfield positions for the Brewers.
Including Clark, the Brewers have reached terms with 22 members of the 40-man roster.
Melvin and Ash, who assumed their posts at the end of the 2002 season, have never gone all the way to a hearing with a Brewers player. The team has argued only three cases since the process was introduced in 1972, none since 1998.
The Brewers remain headed toward a hearing with right-hander Tomo Ohka, who is asking for $5.2 million in arbitration while the Brewers offered $4.25 million. Ohka's hearing is scheduled for Feb. 16, the day before Brewers pitchers and catchers are required to report to Maryvale Baseball Park.