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Why wouldn’t David Ortiz want an arbitration hearing?

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On Thursday we learnt that Red Sox slugger and DH, David Ortiz doesn’t expect a deal to get done before the arbitration hearing. This would end any opportunity to sign Ortiz to a multi-year deal and would end the Red Sox streak of avoiding a hearing with their players, a streak that Theo Epstein was so proud of.

Earlier this week the Sox offered Ortiz a salary of $12.65 million which is a 1.2% raise from last season.  The Ortiz camp presented a salary of $16.5 million, leaving the spread of almost $4 million and the likelihood of a deal in jeopardy.  After thinking that a deal would ultimately get settled before the hearing, I stand corrected, especially after Big Papi’s comments. Looking at the way the arbitration hearing process works, why wouldn’t Ortiz want to go to hearing?  He can’t lose.

Shortly after the season ended it was reported that the Sox offered Ortiz a two-year deal worth $18 million.  Ortiz naturally refused and now he could be in line to make almost all of that in just one year.

It’s probably safe to say that everyone was surprised by the Red Sox offer of just a 1.2% raise for what has become a Boston icon. Last year Ortiz hit .309 with 29 homers and 96 RBI.  He had an OBP of .398, SLG of .554 and OPS of .953.

When comparing that to other AL designated hitters, Ortiz was one of the more productive at his position.  Victor Martinez who spent the majority of last season as the Tigers DH had tremendous numbers, but only his RBI total and batting average were greater than Big Papi’s.  He’s scheduled to make $13 million this season.

Vlad Guerrero, who played for the Orioles last season and made $7.5 million was about as half as productive as Ortiz.

Michael Young of the Texas Rangers played 69 games as the DH last year and made more than $16 million.  Again, more RBI and a higher batting average were the two offensive categories that he excelled over Ortiz.  This may not be a fair comparison because Young did play over 80 games within the infield, making him a valuable player and more than just a DH.

So why Cherington and his posse came in at the number they did is mind boggling.  They better bank on getting a deal done before the hearing otherwise they don’t have a hope in hell of winning this case.

At the hearing, the third party will pick either the high number offered or the low number offered.  No middle ground will be offered.  The following criteria will be considered by the mediating party that could influence their decision (courtesy of Tate Mastin on Quora.com):

"The player’s contribution to the club in terms of performance and leadership"

"The club[s record and its attendance"

"Any and all of the player’s “special accomplishments,”"

"including All-Star game appearances, awards won, and post-season"

"performance"

"The salaries of comparable players in the player’s"

"service-time class and, for players with less than five years of"

"service, the class one year ahead of him"

All four points are in Ortiz favor.  He was once again an offensive juggernaut that helped lead his team to a 90 win season. He was an all-star and a silver slugger last year and let’s not forget the all-star game in 2010 in which he won the home run derby.  Just another feather in his cap.  Throw in the fact that Ortiz was one of the most accomplished DH’s in the game last season, his case is much more rock solid than is Cherington’s.

Had Cherington and the Red Sox offered Ortiz a salary of $13.5-$14 million, then maybe he would have a leg to stand on.  In this case, with a $4 million dollar gap between the two sides, the statistically impressive year Ortiz had and the minuscule bump in salary that the Sox offered, Ortiz could cash in to the tune of $16 million dollars.

Well played Papi, well played.

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