Bernie Williams, unable to get a multiyear contract with the New York Yankees, asked for a record $9 million salary in arbitration for what may be his final season with the team.
New York countered at $7.5 million Monday, the highest figure ever offered by a team and a raise of $2.2 million.Williams' agent, Scott Boras, said last month that negotiations for a long-term contract would cease once salary arbitration figures were exchanged and the outfielder would then file for free agency after the season.
Yankees owner George Stein-brenner has been low-key about the deadline, and Boras has toned down the rhetoric in recent weeks, although it appears any negotiations on a long-term deal with New York will take place after the season.
Williams' request topped the $7.65 million Los Angeles catcher Mike Piazza submitted last year. Piazza's figure became moot later that day when he agreed to a $15 million, two-year contract.
Mike Mussina had received the highest offer from a team, $6.65 million from the Baltimore Orioles last year. He settled at $6,825,000, then agreed to a three-year contract worth $20,475,000.
If Williams wins at arbitration, he would have the largest one-year contract ever in baseball, topping the $8.5 million Toronto pitcher Pat Hentgen will receive in 1999.
Boston second baseman John Valentin submitted the second-highest figure, $7 million. Boston offered $5.5 million, matching Williams and the Yankees for the highest spread among the 60 players who exchanged figures.
Los Angeles outfielder Raul Mondesi asked for a raise from $2.7 million to $6.5 million, while the Dodgers offered $5.3 million.
Four other players asked for more than $4 million, including Colorado pitcher Pedro Astacio, who already has agreed to a $23.3 million, four-year deal. Because the multiyear deal won't be finalized until after his physical, Astacio asked for $4,995,000. The Rockies countered at $4 million.
Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte asked for a six-fold increase from $700,000 to $4.39 million and was offered $3.25 million. Atlanta catcher Javy Lopez asked for a raise from $2.05 million to $4.3 million and was offered $3.5 million. New York Mets pitcher Bobby Jones asked for a raise from $1,925,000 to $4.15 million and was offered $3.1 million.
Among the 81 players who filed for arbitration Thursday, 22 already have agreed to contracts, including Chicago Cubs pitchers Mark Clark and Kevin Foster, St. Louis shortstop Royce Clayton, and Texas pitcher Bobby Witt.
Clark agreed at $5.05 million, a raise of $2.85 million, and Foster settled at $1.45 million, a five-fold increase. Clayton agreed at $3.5 million, and Witt settled at $3.25 million.