January 17, 2007

The Joyous Season of Arbitration is Upon Us

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball

Every year around this marvelously frosty time, after most of, if not all, the marquee free agents have been signed for too much money, restricted free agents get their chance at the owner’s pockets. This year, this is very much to their advantage as they got to see one of the most ludicrous off-seasons in memory. Huge contract extensions were signed, awful starting pitchers cashed in, Boston paid $52.2M for the rights to simply talk to a player. This is definitely a good year to be a free agent of any sort.

Carlos Zambrano made $6.65M last year, this year he wants a raise after being one of the best pitchers in the National League last year, quite understandable given the circumstances. The problem is that he wants $15.5M next year and the Cubs have only offered up roughly $11M for next year. Considering how much cash the Cubs have tossed out this off-season and the fact that Gil Meche finagled a deal worth a similar amount from the Royals, it seems pretty backhanded that Chicago would even offer up a deal that low.

In the twin cities, super kids Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are both going to arbitration and stand to get quite a raise. After earning near the league minimum last year, Morneau and Mauer are asking for $5M and $4.5M respectively. The always frugal Twinkies countered with $4M and $3.3. Coming off seasons in which one earned the AL MVP (Morneau) while the other won the batting crown (Mauer) and should have easy cases. If (read: when) the arbitrators rule in the players’ favour (I don’t see why not), the Twins will still have two young studs on their team at a considerable discount.

All Freddy Sanchez did last year was lead the N.L. in batting average while playing for the sad sack Pirates. Apparently $3.3M is too much for the Pirates to pay out to one of their few bright spots. They’ve only offered him $2.1M.

Three-time all-star Miguel Cabrera has asked for a raise from less than half a million to $7.4M. The Florida Marlins have offered $6.9M and will probably have to pony up after Cabrera’s third consecutive 110 RBI season.

The most remarkable difference between player and team is that of Alex Escobar vs. the Washington Nationals who are an outstanding $90,000 apart and stand to waste more time and money in arbitration than it’s worth. While $90,000 is quite the amount of money for Joe and Jane Everyman, it’s nearly nothing in the sports world.

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