Young Brewers face contract deadline

Young Brewers face contract deadline

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers officials wouldn't state their intentions on Thursday, but the team is likely to tender contracts Friday to all of its arbitration-eligible players except, perhaps, left-hander Chris Capuano, who is working back from a major elbow injury.

The players likely to be tendered contracts include some of the team's core players: first baseman Prince Fielder, shortstop J.J. Hardy, right fielder Corey Hart, second baseman Rickie Weeks and pitchers Dave Bush and Seth McClung.

Capuano's case is complicated because he earned $3.75 million last season but did not pitch because of the injury. If the Brewers tender him a contract, they could not cut his salary by more than 20 percent, and it seems unlikely they would commit such an expense to a pitcher still rehabilitating.

If the Brewers in fact decide to non-tender Capuano, they would try to re-sign him to a new, less expensive contract for 2009. He's eligible for free agency after next season.

The deadline for teams to make decisions on arbitration-eligible players -- usually those with three years of Major League service, although some players with two-plus years qualify for "Super 2" status, but short of the six service years required to qualify for free agency -- is 11 p.m. CT on Friday.

Players who are "tendered" on Friday are considered signed for 2009 at a salary to be determined, not less than 80 percent of his salary the previous season, and both sides continue negotiating. If a deal cannot be struck, the team and the player will each file a proposed 2009 salary in early January. Those figures are exchanged on Jan. 19, and a date for a salary arbitration hearing is then set for Feb. 1-21.

If the sides still cannot come to terms before the date of the hearing, a representative for the team and one for the player present a case before a panel of arbiters, which chooses one salary or the other.

On the other hand, if a player is not tendered a contract before Friday's deadline, he becomes a free agent.

Capuano hurt his elbow on March 17 and tried rehab but eventually needed the second Tommy John surgery of his career on May 15. Noted surgeon James Andrews took a piece of muscle from the inside of Capuano's right leg and installed it into his elbow, side-by-side with the existing graft from his 2002 surgery.

Capuano has been working out at the Brewers' training facility in Phoenix, but club officials are not sure whether he will be able to pitch at the start of the 2009 season.

"We're hoping," assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "But he might be a little bit late."

Capuano will be eligible for free agency in the 2009-10 offseason.

Of the players who will be tendered contracts, the most notable is Fielder, who was unhappy when the Brewers renewed his contract at $670,000 in Spring Training and now is due a huge raise in his first year of arbitration eligibility.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.