What to Expect in Arbitration

The salary arbitration filing period began today, January 5, and runs through January 15.  During that period, players and clubs will submit salary figures.  Ideally, player and club will reach a middle ground without going to an arbitration hearing.  If the two sides can't reach agreement on a contract before February 1, the corrosive process known as an arbitration hearing will take place.  Sometime between February 1st and 20th, an arbitration panel will hear arguments from both sides and pick a winner between the two sides. 

The Dodgers have four players eligible for the arbitration process:

1) Jason Repko (3 years, 32 days service time)

2) Jonathan Broxton (3 years, 20 days service time)

3) Andre Ethier (2 years, 153 days service time)*

4) Russell Martin (2 years, 150 days service time)*

 

*Both Ethier & Martin are eligible for arbitration as "Super Twos."  That is, they have less than three years service time but are in the top 17% in service time among players with at least two years but less than three years service time.

For the most part, the two main things that can swing an arbitration case are performance and service time comparables.  The Dodgers famously won their 2004 arbitration case against reigning Cy Young winner Eric Gagne in 2003 because Kim Ng was able to convince an arbitration panel that Gagne was worth the club's submission of $5 million rather than the service time record of $8m submitted by Gagne.  Ng was later quoted as saying about the arbitration process: "I'm happy the process is over...This is not a fun process."

Russell Martin is a unique case.  There simply aren't many comparables for a young two-time All-Star catcher.  Joe Mauer and Brian McCann spring to mind, but the breakdown of Martin's arbitration case deserves it's own post.  I'm not as concerned with Jason Repko, as I believe the two sides will work out a contract before an arbitration hearing is necessary.  Plus, the salary of a 4th outfielder at best just isn't that compelling.

So for this post, let's concentrate on Jonathan Broxton and Andre Ethier.

Jonathan Broxton

Simply put, Broxton is one of the best relievers in baseball.  His representatives would do well to point out his excellent K/9 rate (5th in MLB over the last 3 years), or his low opponent career batting line of .221/.300/.325.  His brief stint in the 2nd half of 2008 as a closer will surely add some coin to his pocket, certainly more than if he were just a "regular" reliever.  His comparable players are pitchers with three years service time, with some closing experience:

Pitcher Season Service Time Career Saves Career ERA+ Salary
Broxton 2009 3.020 19 146 tbd
Chad Cordero 2007 3.030 91 165 $4,150,000
Huston Street 2008 3.000 76 169 $3,300,000
Akinori Otsuka 2007 3.000 35 168 $3,000,000
Mike Gonzalez 2007 3.014 28 183 $2,350,000
J.J. Putz 2007 3.022 46 127 $2,200,000
Jose Valverde 2007 3.090 51 132 $2,000,000
Mike MacDougal 2007 3.104 50 133 $1,500,000
Chad Qualls
2008 3.058 6 129 $1,312,500
Jon Rauch
2008 3.126 6 115 $1,200,000

Broxton figures to settle in somewhere near the $2 million mark, possibly just north of that figure.  Perhaps it is too early for this, since perhaps in the club's eyes Broxton has yet to prove himself as a closer, but I would recommend signing a long-term deal with Broxton as soon as possible.  It is better to sign Broxton now while his price tag is still low.  If he starts racking up the saves over the next couple of years, his price tag will exponentially rise.  Better to lock him in at setup man prices than to pay the retail cost of closers.

Andre Ethier

In the case of Ethier, it's tough to find comparable players: outfielders during the last two years that have qualified as Super Twos.  I expanded this list a bit to include a few outfielders with three years service time to give us a better idea of the range in which Ethier's 2009 salary will lie.

Outfielder Year Service Time Career G Career OPS+ Salary
Ethier 2009 2.153 420 116 tbd
Alex Rios 2007 2.130 385 97 $2,535,000
Mark Teahen 2008 2.155 383 100 $2,337,500
Ryan Church 2008 2.152 347 113 $2,000,000
Matt Holliday 2007 3.000 401 121 $4,400,000
Brad Hawpe 2008 3.058 445 113 $3,925,000
Xavier Nady 2007 3.058 399 100 $2,150,000

Ethier appears to be better or at least equal to his fellow Super Twos, so he figures to earn north of the $2.5 million mark.  His numbers compare favorably to Rockies Hawpe & Holliday, but since they had more service time than Ethier has now, Ethier won't make as much as $4 million.  My guess is Ethier settles into the $3-3.5 million range.

It will be interesting to see what salary figures are exchanged sometime over the next 10 days.

Special thanks to the invaluable Cot's Baseball Contracts for help with some of the salary data.

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