Reliever Kameron Loe filed for $1.65 million and the Brewers offered $1.055 million, a gap of just $595,000 but one that could be the most problematic of all, according to assistant general manager Gord Ash. The midpoint is $1.3525 million.
The Brewers had better luck Tuesday with first baseman Prince Fielder and left-hander Manny Parra, each of whom inked one-year contracts. Fielder's will pay $15.5 million in 2011, the highest single-season salary in Brewers history. Parra will earn $1.2 million.
After figures are exchanged, the next step in the arbitration process is a hearing date in February. The sides can continue negotiating until that date, and in the vast majority of cases around baseball, they reach an agreement somewhere between the filing figures.
That's how the Brewers will try to proceed with Weeks after agreeing earlier Tuesday to table talks about a multiyear contract extension. Ash and agent Greg Genske changed course and will now try to reach terms on a one-year deal before revisiting the idea of an extension.
"But we face a gap on a one-year deal, too," Ash said.
Weeks is on track to reach free agency after next season. He earned $2.75 million in 2010 and enjoyed a career year, leading the Majors in home runs (28), RBIs (81) and runs scored (110) from the leadoff spot. The key was his health; many of Weeks' previous seasons had been marred by injuries, especially to his hands and wrists.
In some ways, the Marcum case is similar. Marcum earned $850,000 in 2010 and is coming off a career year with the Blue Jays after missing all of 2009 following Tommy John elbow surgery. He rebounded to go 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in the tough American League East and was Toronto's Opening Day starter last year.
The Brewers are open to multiyear talks with Marcum at some point, but for now are talking about a one-year agreement, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. Club negotiator Teddy Werner is handling those talks with agent Jim Turner.
Loe, who drew a $650,000 salary during his four months in the Majors, developed into a key Brewers reliever, posting a 2.78 ERA in 58 games beginning June 1. Agent Page Odle has been negotiating with Karl Mueller, the Brewers' director of video scouting and baseball research.
The Brewers offered Loe a one-year deal with an option for a second season earlier this offseason, but the offer was quickly dismissed, Ash said.
"There's a significant difference of opinion," Ash said. "I know the money is less and it's a smaller gap, but it becomes a matter of principle. We're prepared to pay at the market rate, but he has shot by the market rate. ... That one has a very good chance of proceeding to a hearing."
If a case goes all the way to a hearing in February, each side presents its case to a three-member panel of judges. The judges weigh the evidence and chose one salary proposal or the other. They are not required to explain the decision.
Before last year, the Brewers had not gone all the way to a hearing since 1998 with pitcher Jose Mercedes. That streak ended with outfielder Corey Hart, who took his case to a panel of judges in St. Petersburg, Fla., and won a $4.8 million salary. It was only the fourth arbitration hearing in Brewers history.