"I would like to settle at a number that both sides feel fair, but it takes communication on both sides," said Ethier. "It's kind of frustrating. But if we go, it'll be exciting to experience it and see what they think about me. They don't share too much with young players."
Ethier, who received $424,500 last year without the leverage of arbitration, is seeking $3.75 million this year with the club offering $2.65 million. The panel of arbitrators must decide which side of the midpoint ($3.2 million) Ethier should be on, based on the performance and salaries of similar players, and the arbitrators can choose either the player's number or the club's, but nothing in between.
Ethier is one of a cluster of unsigned outfielders or corner infielders eligible for arbitration for the first time and the submittal numbers from the players and clubs are in a very narrow range. That group includes Jeff Francoeur, Nate McLouth, Mike Jacobs, Ryan Zimmerman, Corey Hart, Edwin Encarnacion, Conor Jackson and Josh Willingham.
All have hearings scheduled for next week and a settlement by any of them could trigger settlements for many of them by establishing a comparable market price. One comparable player that settled early was Shane Victorino, at $3.125 million.
Ethier, who turns 27 in April, led the club with a .305 average, 20 homers and a .325 average with runners in scoring position last year and was second on the club with 77 RBIs and 90 runs scored. He had an .885 combined on-base and slugging percentage.
Either, who has less than three full Major League seasons, qualified for arbitration as one of his class's "Super-Two" group, or top 17 percent in service time. This being his first taste of the arbitration process, he's not sure it makes sense. And he hasn't even been through the rebuttal arguments of a hearing, when a club official or hired lawyer tears down the player's performance with the player present.
Regardless of the outcome, Ethier said he "won't let this affect my work and my preparation for the season.
"It's just too bad it all has to come down to the 11th hour. It's sort of a game of chicken. I hope I can go into camp on a positive note instead of having this hanging over my head. It seems like a dumb way to set up the whole thing."
Since the inception of salary arbitration more than 30 years ago, the Dodgers are 14-6 in cases decided by a hearing and 6-1 in their last seven cases dating back to 1991. That includes the most recent wins over Joe Beimel in 2007 and Eric Gagne in '04 by assistant general manager Kim Ng, who is in charge of the club's case with Ethier.
The last player to beat the Dodgers in a hearing was Terry Adams in 2001. The club's first arbitration case was in 1975, when Ron Cey was awarded a salary of $56,000 instead of the club's submission of $47,000.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.