May We Offer You Some Arbitration?

One of the more interesting rules within the collective bargaining agreement stipulates that a player must be offered a contract or salary arbitration by a specified date or the player is eligible to become a free agent. The date for 2007 happened to be Wednesday December 12. The Arizona Diamondbacks had six players that fell under this stipulation. Fan favorite and reserve infielder Augie Ojeda agreed to a one-year contract last week with the Diamondbacks eliminating the need for salary arbitration. The remaining five players were all offered arbitration thereby protecting their status as Diamondbacks players. Those five include pitchers Juan Cruz, Brandon Lyon, and Jose Valverde as well as catcher Chris Snyder and second baseman Orlando Hudson. Offering salary arbitration to this group was not much of a surprise. Each of them played a valuable role in 2007 and are expected to have an important part in the success of the 2008 Diamondbacks. The question is what is the next step for each of these?

Over the first 10 years of the team’s existence they have shown a propensity to negotiate contracts prior to any arbitration hearings. This was pretty much a hard and fast rule under owner Jerry Colangelo. He thoroughly detested the arbitration process which pits owners and players against each other monetarily all the while expecting the player to be a valuable contributor after the process is completed regardless of whether they win or lose. There have been only two cases where the Diamondbacks have actually gone to arbitration hearings and both have been with catchers. The first case was 1998 with Jorge Fabregas and the other with Damian Miller. In both the Diamondbacks came out victorious but Colangelo so hated the process that he ended up giving the player the money they had asked for much to the chagrin of the other owners. Since Josh Byrnes has taken over as General Manager the Diamondbacks have come to terms with players before arbitration hearings begin.

I think a hearing is a failure in negotiations. It’s a last resort. We spend a lot of time and put forth a lot of effort to try and avoid that.

Josh Byrnes

Diamondbacks General Manager

It is expected that the team will most likely offer one year contracts to each of these players. The Diamondbacks have seemed reluctant to sign Valverde to a long-term contract especially considering his on-again-off-again performance over the past couple of years. Cruz and Lyon likewise should expect a one year deal although the team may look to lock in Lyon to a multi-year deal if they think Valverde may be traded. I expect to see Chris Snyder get a one year deal but if he begins the season like he played last year then I would expect the Diamondbacks to explore the opportunity to sign him to a longer term deal.

Prior to last season I would have said I expected the Diamondbacks to sign Orlando Hudson to a multi-year deal. His on-field performance coupled with his clubhouse leadership skills definitely warranted the Diamondbacks keeping him around. But after Arizona signed Eric Byrnes to a three year contract I think things changed. Given the limited payroll flexibility the Diamondbacks are operating within I think Hudson and Byrnes were an either/or decision. Personally I think the team would be much better served having a gold glove second baseman than an overachieving left fielder. Hopefully I am wrong and the Diamondbacks will be able to find a way to keep Orlando Hudson in a Diamondbacks uniform beyond 2008. Only time will tell.

With these offers of arbitration the Arizona Diamondbacks have pretty much locked up their roster for 2008. About all that remains is to continue to find a starting pitcher and work on their bench strength. With each passing day it looks as though Tony Clark’s days as an Arizona Diamondbacks player are over. I continue to be hopeful that TC will return but after comments made at the online chat with Derrick Hall I got the impression that the team has little hope that Tony will return. So far this off season seems to be more subtraction than addition. Hopefully that trend will not continue.

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