Even in a sport known for its analytics, back of the baseball card stats rule for a couple months of the year. MLB arbitrators prefer traditional stats such as wins, saves and RBI, which means those stats take on additional importance each winter when teams negotiate salaries with their arbitration eligible players.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos discussed some fundamentals of the arbitration process last week while addressing reporters. Though the Blue Jays have since agreed to terms with all of their arbitration eligible players, their GM’s comments provide insight into the process in general. Here are some details:
On Arbitrators’ Preferred Stats
There’s often a significant difference between what arbitrators value and what front offices value. “The arbitration process is totally different,” Anthopoulos said. “Guys get paid on power, guys get paid on holds out of the bullpen, wins, things like that. Not necessarily the same things you evaluate as a free agent.”
On Interpreting the CBA
Player earnings are based on precedent rather than explicit instructions in the sport’s collective bargaining agreement. “Even though in the CBA it won’t tell you specifically ‘this is what we pay for,’ just look at previous hearings and previous cases, how players get paid.”
On Valuing Relievers
“Relievers are hard,” Anthopoulos said. “Holds can be something more quantifiable to an arbitration panel because it impacts late in the game. It seems to be a stat that for the middle relievers and setup guys can become a really key part of the criteria.” Anthopoulos recalled paying current Blue Jays coach Pete Walker more than Juan Cruz because of Walker’s role, even when Cruz was the more appealing reliever from an objective standpoint. “He had the holds and Juan Cruz didn’t.”
Follow the arbitration process with MLBTR’s Arb Tracker and projected 2013 salaries. Plus, Tim Dierkes recently explained what it means to be a file and trial team and Matt Swartz’s Arbitration Breakdown series offers in-depth insight into some prominent cases. Matt has also explained arbitration salaries for pitchers and hitters.