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I had a reader as the question “What is arbitration?” in the comment section, so I thought I’d provide a brief explanation as to what that team implies and how it works. Here are some basics.
When a player is drafted, they have no Major League Service time. As soon as they are added to the active roster assuming it’s not as a September call-up, they begin accumulating service time (even if they don’t get in the game). A total of 172 days constitutes as a full year of service. After three years of service (i.e. 516 days), a player is eligible for arbitration. There is a rare exception to the rule for players called “Super Two’s”. Super Two’s are players in the top 17% of total service time of all players with less than three years of service but more than two years and played in the Majors for at least 86 days that season. Super Two’s are eligible for arbitration. Once a player reaches the three years of service time, he remains eligible for arbitration each off-season until his service time clock reaches six years. At that point, the player is eligible to file for free agency.
At the end of the season, if a player is eligible for arbitration, the team has a certain window with which to offer arbitration to that player. Offering arbitration doesn’t necessarily mean the two sides will go before the arbitrator. It simply means the team is interested in retaining the player’s services. A good amount of times, the team and player continue to negotiate before the hearing and settle on a contract.
Once a player and a team have decided to go to arbitration, both sides submit a number to the arbitrator that they feel is fair for the player’s services for the next season. It’s similar to a court case. Both sides submit their number and then present their case before a judge of sorts as to why their number is the right number. The judge hears the case from both sides and then settles on a decision. The judge must choose one of the numbers submitted. He cannot make up his own number.
There are some special rules that a team must consider when offering up their number. Clubs must offer at least 80% of the player’s salary and bonuses from the previous season and at least 70% of the salary and bonuses from two years prior, unless the player won the case the previous year and saw his salary increased by more than 50%. This 80% rule only applies to players who have not yet reached free agency.
Since 1974, and including 2006, arbitrators have ruled on behalf of the players 199 times and clubs 269 times. Although the number of players filing for salary arbitration varies per year, the majority of cases are settled before the arbitration hearing date. For example, since 1990, 1,764 cases were filed and 198 were heard, which means approximately 88 percent of the players filing for arbitration reach new agreements before a hearing. (Source)Hopefully that helps a little. For the Cubs, Neal Cotts, Michael Wuertz and Mark Prior are all eligible. My guess is that Cotts will be non-tendered, which essentially means the team releases him. Prior will either be traded or work out some sort of deal that hopefully includes a club option for the second year. That would allow the Cubs to cut their losses if he doesn’t pitch this year or bring him back if he returns to form. Wuertz will probably come to a deal before the hearings as Hendry typically doesn’t go to arbitration with his players.
I meant to mention that Brandon and I are still recording a weekly MLB podcast called “The Pitch”. We did a show yesterday if you’re interested in downloading and listening to it. You can also subscribe via iTunes. In the show we wrap up November’s MLB hot stove action in a 15-minute segment covering the Twins abandonment of their pitching rotation with the impending loss of Johan Santana and a trade of Matt Garza to Tampa Bay.
The segment also includes analysis of the Mets trade of Lastings Milledge to Washington, the Cardinals’ new infielder and two aging right-handers signing one-year deals.
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