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McCracken, Rays cut a deal

The outfielder gets a $1.85-million contract, and the team avoids its first arbitration hearing.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 9, 1999


ST. PETERSBURG -- Quinton McCracken was one of the Devil Rays who got things done last season. So after watching his representatives and team officials plod toward resolving his 1999 contract status, McCracken again took action and got results.

Spurred by McCracken's desire to settle, the sides agreed Monday on a one-year contract for $1.85-million, avoiding a potentially adversarial salary arbitration hearing scheduled for Thursday and providing McCracken a 585 percent raise. McCracken, who made $270,000 last season as one of the Rays' most productive players, sought $2.1-million; the team offered $1.6-million.

After weeks of negotiations and positioning, the gap last week was narrowed to $100,000, with the Rays offering $1.8-million and McCracken seeking $1.9-million.

After talking to McCracken, agent Dick Moss called general manager Chuck LaMar on Monday, and they promptly worked out the deal.

"The figures were getting extremely close, and both sides had the feeling the midpoint was where we were headed -- why sit here and play chicken over $50,000?" LaMar said. "Quinton expressed to Dick that he'd like to settle at the midpoint, and that was our intent as well."

"I wanted to go ahead and get the deal done," McCracken said from his Arizona home. "Early on it was a matter of both sides not really clicking. With the deadline approaching, both sides decided to compromise."

Each side had been preparing to state its case to an arbitrator Thursday afternoon in a Tampa hotel room. "I think both sides are disappointed they didn't get to go," said Bill Moore, another McCracken agents. "I think both felt they could win."

The process, though, can be difficult. Representatives of the player pitch his performance and value to the team, and club officials are in the untoward position of citing negative statistics and pointing out shortfalls.

"The whole arbitration process is perceived to be adversarial, and it can be," LaMar said. "It's an extremely productive exercise for the player and an extremely tough position for the club. This deal is fair not only to the Devil Rays but to Quinton as well. We're pleased to have him in the fold." Said McCracken: "I'm happy that we got this resolved. Now it's time to concentrate on the job at hand."

The Rays have settled with each of their eight arbitration-eligible players in two seasons.

"The most important aspect of the arbitration process was that in the end Quinton was going to be a Devil Ray in 1999," LaMar said. "He was our MVP last year and had an extremely good season, and we think he'll do even better in 1999. What he represents on the field and off the field is what we're trying to build around."

The sides discussed a multiyear contract and could eventually re-open those talks.

The 28-year-old outfielder hit .292 last season with seven home runs, 59 RBI and 19 stolen bases. He led the Rays in seven offensive categories, including hits (179), doubles (38), runs (77) and total bases (252). He set expansion records for hits and outfield assists (18).

McCracken is scheduled to take part in the team FanFest this weekend at Tropicana Field. Spring training opens Feb. 18.
-- Staff writer John Romano contributed to this report.

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