10/29/2003 6:29 PM ET
Tigers ink Walker to one-year deal
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
Jamie Walker led the Tigers with 78 appearances in 2003. (Ann Heisenfelt/AP)
DETROIT -- It took Jamie Walker seven seasons to reach the three years of Major League service time necessary to be eligible for arbitration. He didn't want to let a salary squabble threaten that again.
The 32-year-old Tigers left-handed specialist, paid to end late-inning situations quickly, made equally quick work of his salary negotiations. He and the Tigers agreed on a one-year, $775,000 contract that closed the only potential arbitration case Detroit faced heading into the offseason.
"I didn't want to draw this out over the winter," said Walker, whose 78 appearances this season ranked second among AL relievers. "I made an attempt. They came back with an offer and made it out with my agent. I'm glad to get it done and I can go on with my offseason. I'm looking forward."
His return also allows the Tigers to go forward with their offseason knowing they have their bullpen largely sewn up for next year unless they swing a trade. Except for minor league free agents Brian Schmack and Steve Avery, Walker was the only member of last year's staff who could've hit the open market. That's in large part because he was one of the few veterans on the staff.
That was one reason the Tigers wanted to bring him back.
"He fit well in the bullpen," president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He's also a guy for us who's a good kind of leader for the younger players. It's a situation where there was mutual interest in getting something done."
A minor league free agent himself two years ago, Walker was an early-season callup in April of 2002 and quickly settled in as the lefty of choice. That role expanded in 2003 to a career-high 65 innings and three saves. He stranded 73.5 percent of inherited runners, tied for 11th in the league.
Walker made $360,000 last season. He came to the Tigers soon after the season ended with an initial offer; agent Phil Tannenbaum and team vice president of baseball legal counsel John Westhoff completed negotiations in about a week and a half.
"I just kind of wanted fair money," Walker said, "and to me it was fair money. It's taken a course of seven years to get here. I'll be 33 next year and this will be the first year I've got a guaranteed contract."
Barring trades, it'll mark the second straight winter that the Tigers have avoided an arbitration hearing. Arbitration eligibles Randall Simon and Mark Redman were traded last year, while Robert Fick was non-tendered and Julio Santana was re-signed. Detroit's last arbitration hearing was Chris Holt in 2001.
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