ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays continued their run of success in arbitration on Friday, when they won their case with right-hander Jeff Niemann.
Niemann, who went 11-7 with a 4.06 ERA in 23 starts last season, will play for the $2.75 million offered by the club for 2012 rather than the $3.2 million he sought. Though Niemann lost, the award still represented a salary bump of $1.847 million.
"We are officially at the end of the arbitration process for the year," executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said in a statement. "We had a number of eligible players this year, and we're happy to have this process behind us so we can focus all of our attention on getting ready for the season."
Heading into Niemann's case, which was heard on Thursday, Tampa Bay had been unbeaten in five salary arbitration cases, and under the current Rays regime, the team had been unbeaten in four cases, with two of those going against former catcher Josh Paul and the others going against another catcher, Dioner Navarro, and current center fielder B.J. Upton.
Niemann, 28, was the only Tampa Bay player with whom the team did not come to terms prior to the deadline to exchange figures for salary arbitration. Once figures are exchanged, the Rays have a team policy of not negotiating to make a deal unless it is for a multiyear contract.
Niemann will be among the contenders to pitch in Tampa Bay's highly touted 2012 starting rotation. His .632 winning percentage (36-21) over the past three seasons is tied for fifth highest among all American League pitchers with at least 50 decisions. His career winning percentage of .623 (38-23) is the highest in club history (minimum of 30 decisions).
Players with fewer than six years of service time are eligible for salary arbitration if they do not have a contract for the next season. They must have been tendered a contract offer by their current team by the tender deadline, and they cannot agree on a new contract with their team.
In addition, these players must have either been on a Major League roster or disabled list for at least three years, or they must have at least two years of Major League service, but fewer than three, and be among the top 17 percent for cumulative playing time in the Major Leagues in this class of players. The latter must also have been on an active Major League roster for at least 86 days during the previous season.
Niemann signed with the Rays out of Rice University after the club made him the fourth player selected in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.