Nats, Snelling Agree; Other Deals Pending

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Washington Nationals agreed to a one-year, $450,000 contract with newly acquired outfielder Chris Snelling yesterday, thus avoiding an arbitration hearing with one of their six eligible players. However, none of the others is expected to be as easy or as cheap as Snelling, and one in particular bears watching.

The Nationals still face arbitration hearings with closer Chad Cordero, outfielder Alex Escobar, outfielder Austin Kearns, second baseman Felipe Lopez and starting pitcher John Patterson. All are due sizable raises over their 2006 salaries, with Lopez, who made $2.7 million last season, likely to command the highest.

However, the most intriguing case could be that of Cordero, whose 2006 salary of $525,000 could increase by a multiple of seven or more next year, based on precedents and the fact he has converted 91 saves already before turning 25.

Cordero's agent, Larry Reynolds, is likely to use Houston's Brad Lidge and Francisco Rodriguez of the Los Angeles Angels as comparables. Neither had as many saves as Cordero when they entered their first year of arbitration last year, but Lidge's salary went from $500,000 to $3.975 million, while Rodriguez's went from $440,000 to $3.775 million.

Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden declined to comment on the team's remaining arbitration cases. Should the team fail to reach agreements with their eligible players, their hearings would be held next month.

Also yesterday, the team announced that 12 players with less than three years' service time -- including Shawn Hill and Mike O'Connor, candidates to make the team's starting rotation this spring -- signed 2007 contracts.

Nationals Note: First baseman Nick Johnson had two screws removed yesterday from his right femur, which he broke in an on-field collision in September. The procedure was a routine one as part of Johnson's recovery, which remains on track even though it is doubtful he will be ready by Opening Day.

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