Contentious arbitration exchanges elsewhere may eventually make players expendable for the Boston Red Sox.
The Boston Red Sox and MLB are not left out in the frigid northeast cold during the latest “season.” The season that is an annual event in baseball like “tax season” and “flu season,” but the season of my focus is “arbitration season.”
Arbitration is the method to escalate salaries with just a few years of service time and it has had a delicious way of increasing the returns for players and for players who have not approached arbitration to be offered long-term deals to avoid arbitration – essentially “buying” arbitration years and even into the Charlie Golden Ticket of baseball – free agency.
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Within the structure of arbitration is the very real potential for a contentious exchange between player and management. The player and his agents have their dossier filled with pertinent metrics that clearly demonstrate that their client is a future lock for the Hall of Fame. On the other side of the table, the management also has their own reams of information that demonstrates the player is a klutz who is incapable of even the most rudimentary baseball skills. That the only reason he has employment is the soft-hearted paternalism of management.
This is purely negotiation hocus pocus and both sides know it. Historically, there is a meeting somewhere between the two salary points and the matter is settled. If not, all that information is dropped into the lap of arbitrators, who after deliberating on the arguments presented by both sides must choose a figure. The process is one that I place in a category of having twenty consecutive visits to the dentist or a lecture by my spouse on the correct loading of a dishwasher.
Historically there have been some interesting figures submitted including, I believe, on a few occasions where the player submitted a figure lower than management for negotiations. So much for stupid agent tricks.
The Red Sox have three players – Joe Kelly, Robbie Ross, and Junichi Tazawa who have chosen the arbitration route. According to Trade Rumors the current class stands at 156 players of varying skill levels and promise. The Red Sox are usually able to settle quickly with players as both sides know “The Game” and that is the negotiation game. What to look for are the players who manage to get in a verbal brawl with management and those that receive a bountiful pile of dough.
The nastiness of the negotiation process can have dire consequences and that may have been a reason Jon Lester is in Chicago and not Boston after allegedly being insulted with a low-ball contract offer. That was a work up to free agency and the same can also apply to arbitration. A thin-skinned professional with an elevated opinion of his skills is certainly capable of holding a grudge. But that is also a revolving door.
Management can also realize that “We paid that!” Or “This turkey will kill us in free agency!” Management can view it as I would after purchasing the latest electronic gizmo only to find it half-price a month later. Therein lies opportunity and even more so if there has been a media frenzy during the process.
The arbitration process can be a potential view of trade possibilities down the road. A snit on the part of management could make a player that may be needed in mid-summer expendable for the right price. With that said what I find the real attention getter is the fallout from the whole process. Just who may be available over a nasty arbitration process? So, RSN, the failures of other teams in the arbitration process could be an advantage to the Red Sox.