It appeared as if the Detroit Tigers and Armando Galarraga might take negotiations on a new contract right up until an arbitration hearing. The two sides were scheduled to exchange salary figures on Tuesday, and most indications were that Galarraga might seek a significant raise. But he probably lost some negotiating leverage when the team signed Brad Penny last week.
Detroit hasn’t gone to arbitration with a player since Dave Dombrowski took over as team president in 2002, however. And it looks like that streak is going to hold. SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported via Twitter that the Tigers and Galarraga have reached agreement on a one-year contract worth $2.3 million.
Last season, Galarraga finished with a 4-9 record and 4.49 ERA. But coming within one out of pitching a perfect game, only to be robbed of the achievement on a blown call by umpire Jim Joyce, brought him national attention. Galarraga was especially celebrated for the compassion and sportsmanship he demonstrated toward Joyce in light of what happened.
But he still had an inconsistent season, as his final numbers illustrate. One month later, Galarraga was even sent down to the minor leagues. The demotion was a temporary one, as the Tigers needed to shuffle their starting rotation. But if Galarraga had pitched better, such a move wouldn’t have even been considered.
Right now, Galarraga looks like the odd man out of the starting rotation. Penny was signed to be the fifth starter, and Phil Coke is expected to hold down the fourth spot. Those roles could change depending on how everyone pitches in Spring Training, of course.
Some, such as the Detroit News’ Lynn Henning, believes the pitching surplus could lead to a trade. But does a team ever make it through the season using only five starting pitchers? Galarraga could begin the season in the bullpen, and that depth could be useful if and when injuries and fatigue set in among the Tigers’ starters.
However, the Tigers’ patience with Galarraga seems thin (especially from manager Jim Leyland). Even though this contract seems to be a vote of confidence, you get the feeling that Galarraga also could be on his last chance with this team if he can’t pull himself together this season.
UPDATE: MLB.com's Jason Beck has more information on Galarraga's contract. The $2.3 million is the same Jeremy Bonderman received when he was first eligible for arbitration in 2006.
Galarraga's contract is not guaranteed, so if he doesn't perform well in Spring Training, the Tigers could release him by March 15 and owe him approximately $380,000 (or 30 days' termination pay). If he was released by March 30, the Tigers would owe him about $569,000 (or 45 days' pay).