NEW YORK, JAN. 15 -- Baseball's annual salary arbitration season opened today when 153 players filed to have their wages determined by an impartial third party.
However, five players agreed to contracts before the deadline, including Cleveland catcher Joel Skinner, who received a three-year deal worth $2 million.
The other four players settled on one-year deals. Pitcher Scott Bankhead and Seattle settled at $755,000, the same salary he made last season, while pitcher Bill Wegman and Milwaukee agreed to $440,000, a raise of $150,000.
Outfielder Keith Miller and the New York Mets agreed to $260,000, a raise of $137,500, while pitcher Steve Ontiveros and Philadelphia agreed to $180,000, the same salary he earned last season.
The 153 players who filed join six players who became free agents and returned to their teams by accepting arbitration offers last Dec. 19: Tom Brunansky of Boston, Max Venable of California, Dan Petry of Detroit, and Mickey Hatcher, Juan Samuel and Fernando Valenzuela of Los Angeles. The 159 players in arbitration are two short of the record set last year.
The overwhelming majority of players will settle before their cases reach arbitrators. Last year, only 24 cases were heard and players won 14 of them.
Players and clubs will exchange figures on Friday, and arbitrators will hear cases during the first three weeks of February. Since the process began in 1974, clubs have won 164 cases and players have won 139.
Among the top players in arbitration are Baltimore first baseman Glenn Davis, Boston outfielders Ellis Burks and Mike Greenwell, Chicago White Sox reliever Bobby Thigpen, Kansas City outfielder Bo Jackson, Cincinnati reliever Randy Myers and Pittsburgh outfielders Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla.