Prince Fielder, AL MVP Josh Hamilton, major league home run champion Jose Bautista and Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon head 119 players who filed for salary arbitration Friday.
All expect to get large raises, either in settlements or in cases that go to hearings next month.
Fielder made $11.25 million with the Milwaukee Brewers last year, when he hit .261 with 32 homers and 114 RBI. He’s eligible for free agency after next season.
Papelbon, who also can become a free agent after the season, made $9.35 million last year. He was 5-7 with a 3.90 ERA — two runs higher than in 2009 — striking out 76 in 67 innings.
Hamilton, not eligible for free agency until after the 2012 season, batted a major league-best .359 with 32 homers and 100 RBI last year, continuing his resurgence following cocaine and alcohol addition. He missed much of the last month of the regular season because of broken ribs.
Bautista set a Toronto record with 54 home runs. The Blue Jays haven’t gone to a hearing since pitcher Bill Risley in 1997.
About half the players in arbitration are expected to settle by Tuesday, when players and their clubs swap proposed salaries. Only a handful typically take their cases to hearings.
Three players settled Friday before the filing: right-hander Matt Belisle and Colorado agreed at $2.35 million, reliever Joel Zumaya and Detroit agreed at $1.4 million and outfielder Alex Gordon and Kansas City agreed at $1.4 million.
Among free agents, designated hitter Jim Thome stayed with the Minnesota Twins for a $3 million, one-year deal, and left-hander Jeff Francis and the Royals agreed to a one-year contract worth about $2 million.
”It’s great to be back,” the 40-year-old Thome said. ”Minnesota’s a wonderful place.”
Thome hit .283 with 25 homers and 59 RBI in only 276 at-bats last year while making $1.5 million on a one-year contract. This new deal includes performance bonuses for plate appearances. Thome ranks eighth in MLB history with 589 career homers.
”I don’t want to go into this season thinking this is my last year, because I think that’s unfair,” Thome said. ”My plan is to possibly play two more years.”
Francis missed the 2009 season due to shoulder surgery and went 4-10 with a 5.00 ERA in 20 games. He sees parallels between the young Kansas City Royals this year and the pennant-winning Colorado Rockies he pitched for in 2007.
”I think they’re on similar paths that Colorado was five or six years ago,” Francis said. ”So, I’ve seen it happen and I know it can be done. It’s certainly an exciting time for an organization.”