Now that the calendar has turned to January, we can start to focus on salary arbitration. We'll start with catcher A.J. Ellis, arbitration eligible for the second time.
Ellis is one of three remaining Dodgers eligible for arbitration, along with closer Kenley Jansen and ace Clayton Kershaw. We'll get to those two pitchers later this week, but we open with the catcher.
Though the system is adversarial in nature, it is designed to drive both sides toward a midpoint agreement. Both player and team can negotiate throughout the winter, but the important dates to remember are these:
- January 14: Arbitration filing
- January 17: Exchange of salary figures
- February 1-20: Arbitration hearings, scheduled as needed
Many agreements will be made the week of the filing, but in case the player and team can't come to an agreement an arbitration hearing is scheduled. In a hearing, both sides present their case to a three-person panel, which chooses one of the two salary figures exchanged back on January 17, with no in between.
Teams and players are allowed to negotiate up to the scheduled hearing. Andre Ethier and the Dodgers came to an agreement with the Dodgers in 2009 minutes before his arbitration hearing was scheduled to begin.
In 2013, 133 major league players filed for salary arbitration, but for the first time since the process was instituted in 1974 no cases went to a hearing. The Dodgers haven't had an arbitration hearing since 2007, with Joe Beimel.
Knowing the process, let's look at Ellis. This is the second season of arbitration eligibility for Ellis, who was a Super Two last winter.
Normally a player is first eligible for arbitration after three years of service time, but Super Two status is reserved for the top 22% in service time among players with less than three years and more than two years of big league service time.
Last year I overshot by quite a bit for Ellis, predicting he would get a salary in the $3 million range. He ended up signing for $2 million. This year I decided to keep it relatively simple.
Here is a look at some catchers with between roughly similar service time to Ellis, and their career numbers:
|Comparable arbitration-eligible catchers|
|*Part of multi-year contract|
I cheated a little bit by adding the four-year mark for both Hundley and Montero, but catcher comps are difficult enough to find, let alone one who was a Super Two.
Among the group Napoli was the only other Super Two, but he serves more as an upper limit for Ellis. The Avila comp looks decent, and not just because Tommy Lasorda is his godfather.
I'll guess $3.1 million for Ellis in arbitration in 2014. Prepare for that to be quite wrong.