LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - And the winner is ... Andruw Jones. The Gold Glove center fielder beat the club in arbitration Tuesday as a three-member panel awarded him a record $8.2 million salary, a raise of $4.5 million.
"My reaction is it's surprising," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said. "We thought we had a good case. It's disappointing because of the impact it has on our payroll roster, but it is not surprising given the characteristics of this process."
Jones, who had his best season last year when he hit .303 with 36 home runs and 104 RBI, eclipsed the $7.25 million arbitration record Yankees closer Mariano Rivera got last year when he lost his case. The three arbitrators - Howard Block, Roger Kaplan and Elisabeth Neumeier - handed the club its first arbitration loss since Steve Avery won in 1996.
"It's a substantial jump (in salary)," Schuerholz said.
The Braves offered Jones $6.4 million and, according to agent Scott Boras, they refused to settle at the midpoint. During the hearing, Boras compared Jones to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who signed a $189 million, 10-year deal this month.
"We had videos of Andruw's throwing, his speed, his power, his ability to hit for average, showing he's a five-tool player," Boras said.
The Braves would like to sign Jones, who turns 24 in April, to a long-term deal, but Boras doesn't want to lock his client into a five- or six-year contract before he gains free agency following the 2002 season.
"We have consistently tried, but it takes two to tango," Schuerholz said. "He knows we're interested. When they're ready to talk, we're ready to talk."
Said Boras, "It's always difficult when you have young players like Andruw and Alex (Rodriguez). You're going to have to have a contract to allow adjustments within the contract. So while it's open for us, it's going to take special considerations on the part of the club and it's usually something they don't want to do until a player's a free agent." ...
Although most players have already reported, the first full-squad workout will be held this morning at Disney's Wide World of Sports.
Second baseman Keith Lockhart arrived Tuesday, leaving only Jones, Quilvio Veras, Dave Martinez and B.J. Surhoff among the veteran players who haven't reported yet. ...
Pitcher Jake Robbins, a non-roster invitee to camp, was held out of Tuesday's workout because of a stiff back. He's expected to participate in this morning's workout.