Newly-acquired first baseman Glenn Davis avoided arbitration with the Orioles today by agreeing to a club record $3.275 million contract for 1991.
The salary represents a down-the-middle compromise of figures submitted shortly after the Jan. 10 trade that sent Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling to Houston in exchange for Davis.
Davis, who made $1.985 million last year, had asked for $3.65 million while the Orioles offered $2.9 million. The figures represented the highest ever submitted for arbitration by a team and a player. By splitting the $750,000 difference, the two sides sidestepped a hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday.
Davis' salary takes him past Oriole shortstop Cal Ripken, who will draw $2.3 million in the last year of his present contract.
"Arbitration is a process negotiated in the basic agreement between the clubs and players," Orioles' general manager Roland Hemond said. "However, we're pleased to reach terms rather than go through a hearing. Our goal has always been to build a contending club, and settling with Davis in this manner is a demonstration of our continued efforts in building a winner."
Still to be determined is whether or not the Orioles will be able to reach an agreement on a long-term contract with the 30-year-old Davis, but avoiding arbitration can be interpreted as a step in that direction.
Pitcher Jeff Robinson, obtained from Detroit in the trade for catcher Mickey Tettleton, now remains the only Oriole player eligible for arbitration, a process the Orioles have been able to dodge since winning a case with infielder Billy Smith in 1978. The Orioles have until Feb. 20 to reach agreement with the righthander and skip arbitration for the 13th straight year.
Davis, who has hit 166 home runs and driven in 518 runs in less than six major league seasons, is expected to solidify the middle of the Orioles' lineup. He hit 22 home runs and had 64 RBIs last year for Houston in only 327 at-bats in 93 games.
Elsewhere in the American League today, the Toronto Blue Jays signed third baseman Kelly Gruber to a three-year contract, avoiding a Thursday hearing.
Gruber had asked for $3.3 million, while the Blue Jays offered $2.25 million.