Arbitration Looms for Four Diamondbacks

Salary arbitration; the mere mention of it will make baseball players, agents, and general managers wince in pained looks. While it has become a necessary part of the baseball landscape there are very few who enjoy the process or ever want to go through it.

I am sure it has its proponents and it does allow young blooming superstars to be paid for their accomplishments rather than allowing teams to take advantage of players who do not yet have the leverage of free agency.

The problem with the process is that regardless of the outcome it can have the tendency to irrevocably damage the relationship between the player and the team. Let’s start by explaining the process.

A player and the team will exchange salary figures they believe are appropriate for the player to be paid in the upcoming season. If the two sides do not agree on the numbers they are presented to an arbitrator. The arbitrator will hear arguments from each side as to why they should be paid a particular amount. The arbitrator will then rule for either the player or the team. There is no negotiation; it is a winner takes all sort of proposition.

The problem with this process is that the player must sit in the arbitration hearing and listen to the team make a strong case as to why they are not worth the money the player is seeking. If the team should win the arbitration hearing they can save payroll money but they are left with a player who may be disgruntled that the team thinks poorly of their value yet then asks them to go out and play their hearts out.

Should the player win they face the potential that the team feels they are not getting the value they are paying for again doing damage to the relationship. For these reasons teams try to avoid arbitration hearings as much as possible.

During the era where Josh Byrnes was the General Manager the Diamondbacks did not go to one arbitration hearing instead signing their players before the hearing began.

With Kevin Towers now the General Manager it will be interesting if he takes a similar stance to negotiate contracts before the hearing dates.

The Diamondbacks have four players eligible for arbitration this season – Stephen Drew, Kelly Johnson, Miguel Montero, and Joe Saunders. Of the four; Saunders and Montero seem the most likely to sign early.

Both Drew and Johnson had good years and compare favorably to the higher end of the salary spectrum for their positions so they may be more difficult to sign. Drew may especially be a hard sign as agent Scott Boras who has a reputation for being difficult during negotiations represents him.

The Diamondbacks would be interested in signing Johnson, Drew, and Montero to longer term contracts but it may be difficult to find numbers that the team and the player will find appropriate. Hopefully this will get done quickly to eliminate the distraction of an arbitration hearing just before Spring Training starts.

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