Offer Andy Arbitration? Duh!

Melky, Cano performing well in winter ball

Today is the deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their free agents (players have until Sunday to accept), and over the weekend we had a nice little discussion about whether or not the Yanks should offer Andy Pettitte arbitration. Most fans seem weary of Pettitte because of the combination of how he pitched in the second half (he had a 6.23 ERA & 1.68 WHIP after July 30th) and his ever increasing age (he turns 37 next June), but to me this is a no-brainer: offer the guy arbitration.

Note: Before I go any further, let me just make it clear that my opinion about offering Pettitte arbitration has nothing to do with him being a “Dynasty Yankee” or his very good, but often overblown postseason track record. Nostalgia has no place in roster moves.

While Pettitte endured his worst big league season in terms of ERA+ last year, there is also considerable evidence that bad luck played a role in his performance. Check it out:

FIP Hper9 Kper9 BBper9 HRper9 GB/FB Contact%
2007 3.87 9.95 5.89 2.88 0.67 1.45 81.4
2008 3.71 10.28 6.97 2.43 0.84 1.80 80.8

If you looked at the raw numbers without having seen Pettitte pitch over the last two years, you’d say he was at least as effective in ’08 as he was in ’07, perhaps even moreso. The slight increase in hits allowed is almost entirely negated by the decrease in walks allowed, while the improved GB/FB & contact rates indicate that Pettitte did a better job of keeping the ball down while still getting swings and misses. The significant increase in strikeouts is obviously a big plus and evidence that his stuff is still fine, but the decrease in homerun rate is a negative, albeit a small one (it’s a difference of one extra homer every 52.2 IP).

Despite the general improvements in his rate stats, Pettitte’s ERA in 2008 was just about half-a-run higher than it was in 2007. When you allow fewer walks, induce more grounders, and rack up more strikeouts than the year before without significant spikes in hits and homers allowed, you almost have to blame the defense behind him. Decreases in DER (.678 in ’07, .667 in ’08) and GIDP rate (one GIDP every 7.43 IP in ’07, one every 13.60 IP in ’08 despite increased GB rate) support this.

My one real concern about how Pettitte pitched in 2008 is how righties just tattooed him. During his career prior to ’08, Andy held RHB to a .267-.322-.395 batting line (.282-.332-.394 in ’07), but last year they smacked him around to the tune of .325-.376-.476. Via the wonder that is Fangraphs, we can see that Pettitte threw his cutter 27.9% of the time last season, up more than 10% from past years. Maybe Andy relied too much on the pitch, and because RHB saw the pitch so much last year, they were able to tee off against it. I honestly don’t know, this is all just speculation on my part, but something worth considering.

As far as the actual arbitration process goes, it’s a very low risk situation for the Bombers. If he declines, then you’re netting draft picks if he goes elsewhere (there are rumblings that he’s considering the Dodgers, but I suspect that’s just to give himself some leverage) while still maintaining the ability to resign him. If he accepts, then he’d be back for another year at $16-18M (the 20% max salary cut rule doesn’t apply to players with more than six years of service time, however that’s irrelevant because no player has ever had their salary decreased in arbitration, and it’s not about to start with Andy Pettitte despite an ever so slightly below league average year). Given Pettitte’s recent track record as a  league average starter workhorse, the risk is worth it for a team with ginormous holes in it’s rotation and more money than they know what to do with.

If the Yanks choose not to offer arbitration, what do they gain? The risk of potentially paying him $16-18M is reduced, but there’s always the possibility that another team makes a big offer and they end up paying him that much money to stay anyway, maybe even over multiple years. If Pettitte does decide to go somewhere else, the Yanks would receive no compensation picks, and would have to replace Pettitte’s innings with someone who they’ll probably end up paying a similar amount of money to over several years. As the say goes, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

It’s a no-brainer, offer Pettitte arbitration and take the risk of overpaying him for one year rather than having to replace him by overpaying someone that may not be able to handle New York while not gaining any draft picks. Did I really need 800 words to explain something this obvious?

Melky, Cano performing well in winter ball
  • A.D.

    Agreed. If you wanted to pay Pettitte less you should have gotten him to sign before dec 1st, they haven’t been able to do so, his agent has gotten another team in the mix, and with Moose retired they could use a veteran arm in the rotation.

    By offering arb you probably squash out the Dodgers, unless they sign a better type A, as I doubt they want to give up the #17 pick in the draft for a year or 2 of pettitte (though the Braves did that for Glavine a year ago). If they sign a better type A, maybe he’s worth a 2nd round pick to them.

    • Count Zero

      If you wanted to pay Pettitte less you should have gotten him to sign before dec 1st

      And that is indeed the crux of the matter. (Or if you had already signed CC and one of AJ, Sheets or Moose, it might be different.)

      But at this point, I agree you have to suck it up and offer arb. I’m not too keen on paying Andy $16MM+ to pitch in 2009, but the alternatives look worse. A one-year deal is always bearable…

      • DonnieBaseballHallofFame

        Guys this is what I am talking about when I say Cashman BUNGLES deals with our own players.

        If they wanted him for real push him to take a one year deal for less money. Use the fact that he said he only wants a one year deal and ONLY wants to pitch for Yanks. Also use, publicly if need be the fact the Yanks stood by him during last years PED lies.

        • steve (different one)

          If they wanted him for real push him to take a one year deal for less money.

          right now we have absolutely no idea if they have done this or not.

          you are making a lot of assumptions about conversations you aren’t privvy to.

          arbitration is a BIG STICK for Andy, and i am not sure that i would agree to less money if i were him until i see if the Yankees offer arbitration or not.

          • DonnieBaseballHallofFame

            I agree with everything you said. But here is where I would do it differently, I would play hardball with the court of public opinion. Andy is good cop, the Hendricks brothers are the bad cops. Andy says I want to stay, one year only. Andy even alluded to the fact he would be fine with taking less money. If i was Cashman I would go on WFAN and say hey Andy I want you back for one year but work with me on the money. I know it is not done this way. But Cashman has to use the media to his advantage just like the Theo and the Sox do.

            I am sick of this team paying everybody for past performance. For some situations I understand it, but not this one. Andy owes the Yanks and the Yankees fans for supporting him on the PED issue. I for one am fine with Andy going elsewhere, I know he is not as genuine as his awe shucks image suggests.

            • steve (different one)

              then what you are saying is that the yankees should not offer him arbitration.

              if you are OK with letting him walk, you take away his leverage by doing that, b/c once you offer him arbitration you are guaranteeing him big money.

              the more i think about it, that’s what i think will happen.

              the Yankees have already tried to sign him for less money. he refused.

              if the Yankees would rather look elsewhere than pay Andy $16M in 2009, they can’t offer him arbitration.

    • whozat

      “they haven’t been able to do so”

      It’s not clear to me that they’ve TRIED to do so, which seemed odd. Once it was clear Moose was retiring, it seemed to me they needed to bring back Andy on a one-year deal. I mean…I really don’t see three pitchers on the FA market who I want to sign more than Andy, given what I expect they’ll go for in terms of dollars and years. I guess they’re thinking that maybe the market will tank completely and they can get better contracts? Doesn’t seem that likely. Seems kind of moronic, actually. With Pettitte in the fold, you can bargain harder with your secondary targets. Maybe they’re taking for granted that he’ll be there later…again.

      • steve (different one)

        i have the feeling they have tried, but are really looking for him to take a paycut and he doesn’t feel he should have to.

        i’d imagine the Dodger story was leaked in an attempt to get the Yankees to up their offer.

        i think we are going to be seeing a LOT of free agents signing for less than they think they are worth.


      we’d be crazy not to offer Pettitte arbitration. get it done hal!!! If it’s a $$ thong ask Kei and Carl for a loan. In case you didn’t realize. Our rotation right now is Wang, Joba, Hughes, Kennedy and Aceves. We don’t have CC, owe, AJ or even Moose and Andy. We don’t have Texeiria…maybe not even Abreu. Sign Andy. For a fan who sat in the bleachers day after day and watched the Yankees suck behind Pettitte all year…it is indeed not all Andy’s fault for his overall stats. We know Andy can pitch. We know that he can pitch in NY. Come on why is this even an issue. I would hate to see Andy go West ala Joe, Donnie and Proctor (just kidding). Make it happen Hal.

  • pat

    I think u mean players have until monday night to accept?

    • pat

      and yes u offer arb, duh same thing with bobbinsky

    • Ed

      No, teams have to offer by Monday night. Players don’t have to decide until next Sunday.

      • pat

        ahh ok i got you thanks

  • dan

    If anyone wants to see how much money Pettitte is worth, check here:

    (Spoiler: It’s probably more than you think)

    • dan

      Salary, that is, not net worth.

  • Dave

    Might as well give pettitte 16 million or get two great draft picks – we signed posada for far more than he is worth last season clearly paying him for what he has done rather than what he will do. A clear sign that the yanks actually do make roster decisions based on nostalgia or that they love to waste money – the mets were not giving posada a contract THAT long.

    • whozat

      Yeah, Omar has made nothing but savvy roster decisions, and was in no way desperate for a catcher. And really prefers to stay under the radar, not grab headlines by doing something like stealing a long-time Yankee coming off an epic offensive season.

  • Ed

    The team currently has only one pitcher who can be counted on for 200 innings next year. The only other guy guaranteed a rotation spot is capped around 150. If you’ve got a guy who can handle NY and pitches 200 innings every year wanting to come back on a one year deal, you have to take it.

    Also, we know the stats suggest he was unlucky. Rumors about him being hurt started floating right when he first started sucking, which culminated with him finally admitting it publicly and skipping his final start when the Yankees got eliminated. If the doctors think he’s good to go next year, then I think you have to blame at least some of the second half suckiness on playing hurt. Honestly, the choices at that point were to have a hurt Pettitte pitch or a healthy Igawa, and I agree with the team that a hurt Pettitte was the better choice.

  • Mark

    “If Pettitte does decide to go somewhere else, the Yanks would receive no compensation picks, and would have to replace Pettitte’s innings with someone who they’ll probably end up paying a similar amount of money to over several years”

    Here’s where I disagree with you, I would suggest there are internal options, at a fraction of the cost, that offer an upside. Aceves/Hughes/Coke should get a shot at the #4 slot. The youth movement wasn’t instant kharma but it’s still the correct thing to do. The heralded draft picks are only useful if they develop into something. Give the young guys a chance to compete and save 16 million to fill another gaping hole.

    • Joseph P.

      So you’re saying, if we miss out on CC, that you’d be comfortable with a rotation of Wang, Burnett, Joba, Hughes, and Aceves?

  • Steve

    Damn, an attorney is on WFAN right now talking about Plax. They’ve changed the law on guns in the past 2 years, and he can’t get this down to probation anymore. Even with a plea, he’s looking at a 2 year jail sentence. He would have to go to trial to get acquitted, and he doesn’t have a good case. Given those options, he’ll have to go to trial.

    Pierce is looking at a misdemeanor and shouldn’t get in too much trouble, unless they can prove he crossed state lines with the firearm (supposedly he gave the gun to Plax originally) then he’s looking at Federal charges. But the Attorney said that appears unlikely.

  • Steve

    While were on the subject of arbitration, do you offer it to Mussina?

    I say yes, just to cover your ass.

    • steve (different one)

      probably. they got burned by Clemens in 2003.

      although i think it is 100% that Moose is retired. he isn’t the type to play games like Roger. he’s done.

  • Steve

    Another argument FOR offering it to Andy, courtesy LoHud

    “Accepting means a player is returned to the roster as a “signed player” and at worst will receive a one-year deal. If the sides cannot agree to terms, an arbitration panel will set the salary.

    However, such a deal is not guaranteed. A player could be released at the cost of only termination pay.”

    Worst case scenario, whatever the arbitrator hands down isn’t even guaranteed. They could cut him in spring training for a minimal sum.

  • Steve

    BTW-Pete Abe thinks the Yanks DONT offer arb to Pudge. I guess he’s worried that he might accept and feels there will be little interest for him. I disagree, there are so many awful catchers out there, someone will give Pudge a shot.

    • steve (different one)

      i’m not so sure any more.

      2 months ago i would have agreed 100%.

      but it seems like teams are really reluctant to spend money right now. Pudge might be looking at something like a 1 year offer for $5M.

      i don’t think i will blame the Yankees if they don’t offer it to him. it may not be worth the risk for only a sandwich pick.

      Pudge WILL win an arbitration case. he’s a hall of famer. the arbitration panel won’t really care that he slumped for the last 2 months of the season.

      again, i thought it was a no brainer 2 months ago.

  • Rob

    I don’t get it. Under the current rules, why not offer arbitration if you’re the Yankees to all of their Type A and B free agents?


    1) Player declines. Yanks get picks if they sign elsewhere. Win.
    2) Player accepts. If they sign, Yanks can always cut the player in Spring Training. Win.

    Heck, given the team’s need offer to Abreu to and Pudge as well as Pettitte. If they accept, the team may be overpaying, on paper, but then they can always cut the player if they don’t need them. Pettitte is a hedge if two other free agents don’t sign. Abreu is a hedge against not signing Teixeira or Manny. And Pudge is a hedge against Jorge’s shoulder.

    Besides a little bit of cash, what’s there to lose if the players accept then the team cuts them?

    • Joseph P.

      They’d have to immediately clear a 40-man spot once the player accepts arbitration (since he is considered a signed player). The Yanks’ 40-man is full. That’s the downside, I suppose.

      • Rob

        Thanks. Yeah, that’s annoying especially when they’d be looking to sign guys. So they could have to clear up to five or six slots if everyone accepted.

        Ransom is an easy DFA especially with Russo doing well this Winter.
        Shelly is too with Swisher aboard.

        Among the pitchers, it’s probably Jackson, Claggett, and maybe Hacker too.

        Speaking of which, why were Claggett and Jackson and even Dunn and Garcia protected for the Rule 5? Would any major league team really keep them on their 25-man for the whole season? That seems silly for all but Garcia perhaps. Even then, that’s a stretch given that he’s barely pitched above A-ball.

        • A.D.

          Britton would likely be DFA #1

    • steve (different one)

      what is the rule for how much salary they would owe them if they cut them in spring training?

      for someone like Pettitte or Abreu, who would be looking at a salary of over $16M, even a fraction of their salary may not be insignificant.

    • tripp

      Because cutting Abreu, Pettitte, Giambi, etc in the spring would cost the Yankees in the neighborhood of $55 – $60 million. This isn’t the NFL.

      That, and if they were to accept, they become very difficult to trade unless the Yanks are willing to eat a big chunk of their salaries. Not good business.

      The Yanks only proven 200+ inning starter the last two years has been Pettitte. It would be a huge mistake not to offer arb. Worst case, he goes somewhere else and we get a 1st rounder… something far more important now that our farm does not look as good as it did this time last year.

      • steve (different one)

        Because cutting Abreu, Pettitte, Giambi, etc in the spring would cost the Yankees in the neighborhood of $55 – $60 million.

        no, it wouldn’t. and Giambi isn’t part of the equation at all.

  • leo

    If they don’t offer him arbitration there’s a blackout period before they can negotiate with him again, so yes beyond the draft picks, the chance he might accept, etc they really need to do this. This came up last year too and is why they offered him arbitration while he was making up his mind.

    • steve (different one)

      i don’t think this is true anymore about the blackout period. i think the most recent CBA eliminates that.

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