Ten Arbitration Cases To Watch

There aren't many unsigned arbitration eligible players remaining at this point in the winter, but many of the most high-profile cases remain unresolved. As MLBTR's Arb Tracker shows, 26 arbitration eligible players have yet to agree on their 2011 salaries. Some of them will sign extensions, some will go to hearings and others will avoid arbitration with one-year deals. Here's a primer on ten of the most interesting arbitration eligible players out there:

10. Mike Napoli, Blue Jays - In case arbitration cases weren't complicated enough, the Blue Jays have to defend the Angels' number ($5.3MM) if they go to an arbitration hearing with Napoli, who filed at $6.1MM. The numbers stand, even though the Blue Jays acquired the catcher/first baseman after the Angels exchanged arbitration submissions with him.

9. R.A. Dickey, Mets – Dickey has said he's open to a multiyear deal. We'll soon know whether Mets GM Sandy Alderson wants to extend the knuckleballer or settle on a contract in the $3.35-4.7MM range.

8. Delmon Young, Twins - There's a $1.6MM difference between Young's asking price ($6.25MM) and the Twins' suggested salary ($4.65MM). 

7. Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles – As I explained yesterday, Guthrie's case could come down to his durability (175 innings in four consecutive seasons) vs. the fact that comparable starters (John Danks, Chad Billingsley, Matt Garza) have been harder to hit.

6. Rickie Weeks, Brewers – The Brewers are no longer discussing a multiyear deal with Weeks, who is asking for $7.2MM. The Brewers countered with $4.85MM.

5. Francisco Liriano, Twins - Liriano made $1.6MM last year and posted a 3.62 ERA with 9.4 K/9 in 191 2/3 innings. His representatives at Legacy Sports will argue that he has earned a raise to $5MM, while Bill Smith and the Twins say $3.6MM is more appropriate.

4. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros – Rodriguez's $10.25MM asking price seems high until you realize how few arbitration eligible pitchers have comparable big league experience (the Astros offered $8MM). Rodriguez is just 15 innings shy of 1,000 for his career and his ERA hasn't surpassed 3.60 in any of the past three seasons. The lefty's 985 innings are 246 more than Erik Bedard had after 2008, the season that set Bedard up for a $7.75MM payday. Few arbitration eligible pitchers earn eight-figure deals, but few have as much big league experience and success as Rodriguez.

3. Jered Weaver, Angels - Weaver requested $8.8MM, while the Angels countered with $7.465MM. Either way, the Scott Boras client will be earning substantially more than he did in 2010, when he made $4.625MM.

2. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays – I wrote last fall that Bautista's case comes down to his historic 2010 season vs. the forgettable campaigns he strung together before last year. Click here to read more.

1. Josh Hamilton, Rangers - The Rangers could bring up Hamilton’s injury history and past substance abuse, but they would have to do so subtly, says Michael Vlessides, a veteran arbitration consultant.  “It’s the fine line between how much do you pick on the guy who’s the MVP. If you do it too much, you can lose a lot of credibility” Vlessides said. Beating MVPs in arbitration hearings isn’t easy, but the Pirates beat Barry Bonds after he won his first MVP in 1990 and again the following offseason.



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