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Nationals make deals with four players, avoiding arbitration

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 20, 2010; D03

With a busy day of contract signings Tuesday, the Washington Nationals avoided arbitration cases with four players, sparing them from all but two further salary negotiations with current team members.

The Nationals came to terms with outfielder Josh Willingham, relief pitcher Jason Bergmann, and catchers Wil Nieves and Jesús Flores. Relievers Brian Bruney and Sean Burnett are the final remaining players eligible for arbitration this season.

Of those who signed on Tuesday, Willingham almost certainly received the richest deal, signing a one-year contract for $4.6 million. He earned $2.95 million in 2009, a season in which he hit .260 with 24 home runs in 427 at-bats.

This is the second season in which Willingham was eligible for arbitration -- the process used by baseball to determine salaries for those with three to six years of service time.

Bergmann received a one-year deal that will pay him $750,000. Terms for the other contracts were not immediately available.

Bergmann, Flores and Nieves were all due to enter the arbitration process for the first time. Bergmann, who had a 4.50 ERA in 48 innings (56 games) last season, will handle a middle spot in the bullpen. Flores, rehabbing from a shoulder injury, is slated to handle catching duties alongside offseason free agent signee Iván Rodríguez. Nieves will compete for a back-up spot. All three players were paid between $410,000 and $450,000 in 2009.

Arbitration hearings will take place between Feb. 1 and 21. Burnett and Bruney may still agree to terms any time between now and the dates of their hearings.

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