Washington Nationals, Outfielder Josh Willingham Avoid Arbitration on Final Day

The Washington Nationals prepare for the 2009 season in Viera, Fla.
By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 19, 2009

VIERA, Fla., Feb. 18 -- The Washington Nationals signed outfielder Josh Willingham on Wednesday to a one-year, $2.95 million deal, plus up to $100,000 in incentives.

The agreement allowed Willingham, whose hearing had been slated for Wednesday afternoon, to avoid arbitration. The outfielder said he expected to fly back from Phoenix -- site of all arbitration hearings -- Wednesday night, and he will be with the team Thursday for the first full-squad workout.

"Well, I think both parties are excited about getting it done," Willingham said. "I didn't want to take it back all the way to trial."

Had the case gone to a hearing, Willingham would have earned either $3.6 million (his offer) or $2.55 million (the team's offer). But several one-year deals in recent days, including the one-year, $3.1 million deal the Los Angeles Dodgers reached Tuesday with Andre Ethier, gave both sides a framework.

Willingham's case had been complicated, because his numbers from 2008 were limited by a back injury. In 2008, while with the Florida Marlins, Willingham played in 102 games, hitting .254 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI. For his career, Willingham has a .266 average, a .361 on-base percentage and a .472 slugging percentage.

This was the first year in which Willingham was arbitration-eligible -- a part of the reason Florida was willing to trade the 30-year-old to Washington in November. Last season, Willingham earned $405,000.

With Willingham's case resolved, the Nationals have now reached one-year contracts with two of their four arbitration-eligible players. Washington went all the way to a hearing with Shawn Hill, but signed Scott Olsen to a one-year, $2.8 million deal on Feb. 8. The case involving Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals' final arbitration-eligible player, is scheduled for Friday. Washington has until then to work out a deal and avoid a hearing.

Proud Papa

Pitcher Daniel Cabrera has rejoined the team after traveling to the Dominican Republic, where his wife gave birth to a son, Daniel, Tuesday. Wednesday, Cabrera had a bullpen session. Also, a big smile. . . .

Adam Dunn and friends took some light batting practice Wednesday. And it was very light. One fan spotted Dunn -- shades down, hair matted up into a blond 'fro -- and shouted, "Hit one onto I-95." But Dunn had other things in mind: just a few easy swings to warm up the muscles. He even bunted.

Fireworks to come later, evidently.

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