In hindsight, would accepting arbitration have been better?


On December 1, 24 players were offered arbitration. Only two of them — Darren Oliver and David Weathers, both relievers — accepted. Of the remaining 22, six have signed, three with the Yankees. We’ve heard names like Manny Ramirez, Brian Fuentes, Derek Lowe, and Milton Bradley discussed, but nothing seems imminent. Would some of them have fared better by accepting arbitration and re-entering the free agent pool next winter?

Fred Claire tackled the topic at the end of his latest article. It deals with the free agent class of 2009, noting that it’s not nearly as top-heavy as this year’s talent. The top pitcher, John Lackey, might not even make it to free agency. Matt Holliday is a very good hitter, but after him there’s not much unless Vlad Guerrero can stay healthy. That is, unless you count Chipper Jones, who is a decently safe bet to stay with Atlanta.

So why didn’t a few more free agents accept arbitration this year and hope for better conditions next year?

“I was particularly surprised that so many ranking free agents refused arbitration,” observed a general manager. “It would seem that next offseason would be a better marketplace from a player’s perspective. I think a few agents didn’t offer the best advice to their clients [at the arbitration deadline on Dec. 7.]”

Is it really going to be a better market, though? There might not be as high end talent available after the 2009 season, but for the most part the unsigned guys who declined arbitration either are getting on in years or aren’t top-tier guys. The older guys want their final multi-year contracts, and the second- and third-tier guys don’t necessarily stand a better chance next winter. Maybe economic conditions improve and teams can spend a bit more. But with attendance forecasted to take a hit next year, is that a likely scenario?

No, for the most part I don’t blame these guys for declining arbitration. It’s worked for CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira, Raul Ibanez, Casey Blake, and Francisco Rodriguez. I’m sure Ben Sheets, Derek Lowe, Orlando Hudson, Oliver Perez, etc. will find buyers for their services.

Categories : Hot Stove League
  • Ivan

    Cashman made the right move not offering arbitration to players like Abreu, Pettitte or Giambi.

    • al

      maybe.. but i only see one of the 3 accepting..

      • inman

        i’d think all three would accept right now

        • al

          too late now.. but i agree if the arb deadline was today..

          • Mike Pop

            Abreu would of accepted. He would of screwed us

            • Jay CT

              I think Giambi would have accepted because no one will give him 20 millions this season. I think Pettite would have accepted as a 1 year 16 million offer is perfect for him. I think Pudge may have accepted as he wants money at this point more then anything else. I know everyone thinks he didn’t want to be a backup, but I bet he would have figured, “With 13 million, they wont want me to be a backup, they will eat half my salary and trade me.”

              • Joseph P.

                Plus, there was nothing to gain from offering Giambi arbitration. He’s not a Type B free agent.

              • steve (different one)

                Giambi wasn’t part of the decision, he wasn’t a Type B, so there was nothing to gain by offering him arb.


                i think Pettitte would have definitely accepted, and Abreu is up in the air. i don’t know the answer.

                what i do know is that the Yankees had their eyes on signing Teixeira and the POTENTIAL for Abreu to accept and throw a bomb in their 2009 budget was a risk they were unwilling to take.

                it’s 12/31 and Abreu doesn’t look like he’s going to get more than 2 years for maybe $9-10M/year, if that.

                we had some serious arguments on this one, but it looks more and more likely to me that Cashman read the market correctly.

                • Jay CT

                  I think Abreu would have accepted also. It would have been much better to play on a 1 year, 18-20 million dollar deal and then become a free agent when there are far less hitters next year then go out on the market now.

                • Jay CT

                  I should say also, the only reason I included Giambi was becuase Ivan brought him up. Also, hindsight is 20/20- I thought that not offering Abreu was a mistake, so I need to say that before I say that they were dead on right. Also, that addional 20 million to him, and 16 million to Andy, would have changed their free agent signings this off season. You are looking at a completely different team; everything that has happened thus far has been a “best case scenario,” one which I am sure they said would be great in their Tampa meetings, but also, one they believed was a bit unrealistic. The only thing that they haven’t gotten that they probably envisioned was the draft picks they would have gotten.

    • Old Ranger

      I can go with you on that.
      I also think a lot of the GM/owners have come to realize that star players over 32, are not the star player they thought they were getting. I mean look at the long contracts some of these guys were getting at the age of 32/33+, five and six year deals. This puts them at 36+ half way through the contract, how many stars are really stars at 36+ years old?
      One just has to read the posters on this blog to see most are saying A is better then B but, I’ll take B because he is 3 years younger. Read almost any blog and you will see the same thing. 27/09.

  • Kevin G.

    Also what if the player accepts arbitration and gets hurt the next year or has a horrible season? That is a huge risk to take.

    • Old Ranger

      True but, arbitration is for one year…most contracts are for 3 to……years. If he gets hurt after arbi., the team is out 1 years pay…what happens then? If you have him under contract for 3 or more years, he comes back the next year, and plays for you again…not someone else. Unless you are Pavono the walking ad for hospitalization insurance. 27/09.

      • Jay CT

        Yeah Kevin, I think that’s nitpicking a bit. most owners would prefer a 1 year deal to a 3 or 4

    • sabernar

      Yeah, a huge risk to go ahead and accept a $16M contract. Oh no, he’s hurt! He only earned $16M in his last season! What’s he going to do?!?!

      • Mike Pop

        “I cant feed my family on that kind of money, thats an insult, I got kids to feed.”

        • Jay CT

          Oh Latrell Spreewell, where have you gone…

      • Kevin G.

        I am aware $16 million is a lot of money (I would love to get $16 million) but would you rather have $16 million for 1 year and God knows what for the next year or $20 million a year for 4 years?

        • Jay CT

          Which is exactly the OPPOSITE of what you said. Or at least, how it sounded. It sounded like you were saying, “On a 1 year deal the guy can get hurt and then its a waste of 16 million.” Now you are saying that its better to waste that 1 year then a 4 year deal. Kind of contradicting yourself

  • A.D.

    It may have been a good plan for Perez, Sheets, other guys right around or before 30 they can wait a year and get a better contract. But not guys like Lowe and Abreu that will probably never get that longer contract (or it will be worse) the longer they wait.

    • Reggie C.

      You could say that for Sheets coming off a 198 inning effort , his value couldn’t be higher. If it wasn’t for that injury in the last month which cost him a couple starts, Sheets would have easily broken the 200 inning mark. Sucks for him that he hasn’t generated more interest.

      • Jay CT

        I actually still think Sheets will wind up with a 2 or 3 year deal with some good money on it. Better then the 1 year of arbitration.

  • MattG

    I was surprised that the Yankees did not offer Abreu and Pettitte, but not Giambi or Ivan. In hindsight, it was very prudent.

    The big thing about arbitration is you can’t offer a player less than a 20% pay cut. Abreu in particular is likely to take a 50% paycut from last season. I suppose if you sit down and look at it, you have to decide if the salary you would want to pay is within 20% of last year’s salary, and if it isn’t, you have to pass on arbitration.

    Varitek is the one the screwed up the most. He can go back to Theo, and say, “I wish I would’ve taken arbitration, how about $7.2M for 2009?” and Theo can now offer him even less.

    As for everyone else, I think they can all go back to their current club and suggest a one year contract within 20% of last year’s salary, or more, and get a deal done. If that is true, I don’t think declining arbitration was a mistake.

    • Joseph P.

      “The big thing about arbitration is you can’t offer a player less than a 20% pay cut.”

      Yes you can. We’ve been over this a ton now, but this false notion still persists. In the CBA, it says that offering arbitration to your own free agents works in the same manner as players with 3-5 years of service time, except the maximum pay cut provision. So you can offer your arbitration guys whatever you want.

      That said, no one’s salary has ever been reduced in arbitration, and I doubt the trend would start with Abreu and Pettitte.

      • MattG

        “(3) The club’s salary offer to a player under its control may not be less than 80% of the player’s total compensation from the prior year, and may not be less than 70% of his compensation from 2 years earlier. These rules, however, do not apply to free agents who are offered arbitration.”

        You are correct. Live a day, learn something new.

        However, you also point out that realistically there is no way a team can offer too much of a pay cut, or the player will win his arbitration case. Theo can’t offer Varitek $6M in arbitration and hope to win, but now that he has declined, he certainly can.

  • mike

    With the results of greater drug testing and more regulation of amphetamines, its going to be harder to rationalize giving an older player ( +32 ) a long-term deal, as there are really no comps for managment to review.

    Also, I wouldn’t assume Abreu is going to get 2/20 or the like as indicated by other above – there are a ton of teams with money ( LA, Anaheim, Colorado, Cubs, Seattle, Mets) who realize that Abreu is better than Ibanez, and once Manny is done, these other teams will begin to sift through Bradley, Abreu etc and I will believe that Abreu can get a 3 yr at almost 40mm from someone, as he is a healthy, lefty, OBP machine.

    • steve (different one)

      i guarantee you that Abreu does not get $40M/3.

      i think Ibanez’s deal is probably the absolute ceiling for what he will get.

      • Jay CT

        Yeah I think Abreu gets 3 35, but I still think if he could do it over, he would take the 1 year for roughly 20(?) and then re-enter next year when there are not hitters like Ibanez, Manny, Dunn, Bradley, Tex (different league), etc…

        • mike

          no doubt he would take the arbitration, and knowing the Yankees position next year ( when all of their OF would be FA ) he could have been in a much stronger position to get an extension from the Yanks, falling under the “Devil you know” category

          That being said, he will wind up on the West Coast ( I dont even count out the Giants – is Fred Lewis going to block Abreu when Molina is batting cleanup??) or, if the Mets don’t get Manny, over in Flushing- their outfield is weak and Church is a mystery.

    • MattG

      I do not get Ibanez’s deal at all. Abreu, Burrell, Dunn, and Bradley are all better options. Burrell, Dunn and Bradley might get within shouting distance of the $40M mark. I do not see Abreu getting more than 2/24. Ibanez should’ve gotten even less.

      • steve (different one)

        yeah, i don’t understand jettisoning Burrell for Ibanez. makes no sense. Ibanez is terrible defensively, so i don’t think that argument holds water.

        i understand why the Phillies specifically would prefer Ibanez to Abreu though. there was was some bad blood there.

        • Reggie C.

          Ibanez isn’t a malcontent. Whatever makes Jimmy and Ryan happy..

          • steve (different one)

            is Burrell a malcontent? i hadn’t heard that.

            at any rate, his attitude problems probably kept them from winning a World Series. oh wait.

            • mike

              People in Philly did not like Burrell as he was always taking Utley out for late-nights, and the word is they were afraid of that influence long-term.

              • Rick in Boston

                mike, I’m not buying that one. Chase Utley is 30 years old – if the Phils are worried that he’s going to run into bad influences at that age, then they have larger problems.

  • Lissette

    With Lowe’s stock seemingly low (3 yr. 36 mil offer from Mets), would it make sense for the Yanks to pursue him at this lower rate? He would definitely be much more formidable than Pettitte, and for a couple million more it seems worth it.

    • Jay CT

      I still pass. I would love the inning eater type, but I would rather Andy for 1 then Lowe for 3. And I bet its going to wind up as 4 before its all said and done

    • steve (different one)


      of course, the only reason that Lowe is currently sitting at $36M/3 is because there are no other offers.

      by definition, if the Yankees get in, they will have to BEAT that number.

      and if they do that, maybe the Mets are secretly willing to go to 4 years?

      where does it end up? what number do the Mets have in their head as their stopping point? 4 years at $14M each? 3 years at $15M?

      we won’t know that unless another team gets involved.

    • MattG

      I’d much rather have Lowe than Pettitte, but you can’t totally block Hughes & Kennedy. If the Yankees were willing to swoop in on Lowe for a smidge more than the Mets, say 3/39, then they would have to be at least willing to trade Wang next off season (provided either Hughes or Kennedy deserves a rotation spot).

      • Reggie C.

        I know guys like Keith Law have said: “these things have a way of working themselves out…”. I just don’t think that’s always the case and to sign another multi-year guy (lowe) would close the door on Hughes from becoming a full-time starter for at least 3 seasons barring a Wang trade.

        Even if Hughes’s ceiling is now re-adjusted to a reliable #3 on a contender, its totally worth giving him the starts in ’09 over Lowe.

    • Reggie C.

      Pass. For the obvious reason that we should add Hughes to the rotation, or at least set it up for him to get in some serious ML innings as the 6th man if we convince Pettitte to sign the 1 year deal. I think Pettitte accepts $12M.

      • Jay CT


      • RichYF

        What the hell?

        How are there no, “you’re not blocking Hughes, just put Joba back in the pen!!!!!!”

        I don’t think it’s a big deal to sign Lowe for 3 years mostly because I’m pretty sure there will be a rotation spot open for Hughes. Someone is getting injured for the year within the next 3 years, it’s basically a guarantee. Even if Andy comes back, Hughes will probably pitch half the season with the big club when someone blows a elbow, shoulder, biceps, quad, toe, ankle, etc.

        Lowe for 3 years is basically “Pavano insurance.”

        I’d still pass, but if he can be had for 12 a year it’s definitely worth considering. This is all based on the assumption that he can be league average or better for the duration of his contract. I am not sure if that is the case. Pettitte is obiviously the “safer bet,” but there are no guarantees when it comes to starting pitching that’s for sure.

        • Reggie C.

          In Aceves, Kennedy, Geise and Hughes, the Yanks have got depth to get through the season. Spot starting isn’t going to keep this team out of the playoffs. However, injuries to front-line guys can’t be guarded against; it happens, i.e, Wang’s freak running injury. Burnett probably won’t make 32 starts, but he’s coming off a 30 start season, and finished strong. Why not expect another 30 start season?

          Getting Lowe is only going to keep Hughes out the rotation. Do i expect Joba to stay strong all season through? No. But i don’t expect him to transition back to the BP either. Lowe just isn’t needed.

    • Ryan S.

      We already have 2 pitchers locked up for 3 (possibly 7) and 5 year deals, we’re going to want to extend Wang to a long term deal I hope, and Joba is going to get a lot of opportunities as a starter to prove himself. I think a 3 year deal for Lowe is fine in a vacuum, but I think it makes our rotation not flexible enough when you factor in everything else. That’s why I love Andy for a 1 year deal, gives us everything we need for exactly as long as we need it. I’ve still got my fingers crossed he signs on with us, but if not, I think I’m prepared to give Hughes/IPK/Aceves a shot at it, even though that does leave is unnecessarily vulnerable. Still, let’s say Hughes gets that final spot, having Aceves/IPK/Giese as your #6/7/8 starters isn’t the worst thing in the world, and we can always trade for a pitcher during the season if need be.