Jays avoid arbitration with two
Hillenbrand, Walker agree to one-year contracts
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays reached agreement on one-year deals with infielder Shea Hillenbrand and right-hander Pete Walker on Thursday, avoiding arbitration with their final two arbitration-eligible players.
Hillenbrand will make $5.8 million in 2006, and The Associated Press reported that the contract also contains $50,000 in performance bonuses: $25,000 each for 610 and 635 plate appearances. Hillenbrand had been seeking $6.7 million and Toronto had extended an offer of $5 million. He made $3.87 million last season.
"A couple things gave late in the process that made us realize that there was a deal to get done there," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said, referring to the contract negations with Hillenbrand. "I'm glad we got it done. They gave a little and we gave a little. ... I think we were willing to go [to arbitration] on both of these, but if you can work something out, I think anybody would like to work things out."
Walker, who made $400,000 last season, is set to earn $650,000 in 2006. The reliever asked for $875,000, compared with Toronto's offer of $575,000.
Ricciardi has yet to go to arbitration with a player in his tenure as Toronto's general manager. The last time the Blue Jays went to arbitration was with pitcher Bill Risley in 1997, when the club's offer was selected.
Hillenbrand will serve primarily as the designated hitter for the Jays this season. He split time between first and third base last year, but the acquistions of Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay this winter leave Hillenbrand without job at one of the corner spots.
Last year, Hillenbrand hit .291 with 18 home runs and 82 RBIs in his first season with the Blue Jays. He also was the team's lone representative at the All-Star Game.
Walker posted a 6-6 record with a 3.54 ERA in 2005 and recorded two saves.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.