Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Arbitration Recap

Today is deadline day for teams and players to exchange salary arbitration figures.  Typically, deadline day is met with a flurry of deals by arbitration eligible players seeking to avoid having to go through the uncomfortable experience of an arbitration hearing.  Today, was no different.  Rather than putting multiple individual posts about each individual signing, I thought it would be more efficient to do a quick round-up of deals completed today.
  • Prince Fielder - According to SI's Jon Heyman, the Brewers and Prince Fielder have come to terms on a one year $15.5M contract.  This looks like a solid move for both teams.  Fielder gets the distinction of being the highest paid Brewer of all time, while the Brew Crew retains their power hitting first baseman for one last run at the promised land.  Fielder's true talent level is between 4.5-5.0 WAR at this point, so Milwaukee should have no problem justifying his contract.
  • Jonathan Papelbon - Sean McAdam of Comcast Sports Net reports that Papelbon and the Red Sox agreed to a one year $12M contract.  After being one of the two or three most effective closers in baseball from 2006-2008, Papelbon has struggled mightily over the past two seasons.  At only 30 years old, there's always the chance he rediscovers his dominant form, but he'd have to not only regain his elite control, but also show he can consistently throw his plus-fastball and splitter at the same time.  With Papelbon's true talent level around 1.7-2.0 WAR, he'd need to have a season on par with his 2007 campaign (2.4 WAR) in order to justify his contract.  That might be too much to ask at this point.
  • Heath Bell - SI's Jon Heyman reported that Heath Bell has signed a one year $7.5M contract with the Padres in his last season of arbitration-eligibility.  Bell, 33, has been one of the best closers in baseball over the past two seasons posting a double digit K/9 rate and a K/BB rate over 3.00.  Bell will be an interesting free agent case next season.  With Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon and Yankees set-up man Rafael Soriano both may hit the free agent market next season, Bell may end up being the odd man out when it comes to scoring a big free agent contract.  His true talent level is around 2.0 WAR, so he should have no problem justifying his 2011 salary.
  • Matt Capps - According to Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune, the Twins have agreed to terms with Matt Capps on a one year $7.15M deal.  This deal struck me a bit by surprise considering how many relief pitchers the Twins allowed to leave via free agency (Crain, Guerrier, Fuentes, and Rauch).  Capps is a solid pitcher, I don't think anyone would consider him to be within the first or second tier of closers.  His walk rate is solid, but his strikeout rate is a bit lacking for a closer quality pitcher.  Considering Capps's 2011 salary, and the cost of acquiring him (catching prospect Wilson Ramos), it might've been a smarter move for the Twins to non-tender Capps.  
  • Cody Ross - Jane McCauley of the Associated Press reports that the Giants and outfielder Cody Ross have agreed to terms on a one year deal worth $6.3M.  Ross made $4.65M last season, and given the nature of arbitration, he was guaranteed a sizable raise.  Still, I can't help but think that his salary is almost entirely the function of his huge postseason.  Ross was an average player in every sense of the word last season posting a .324 wOBA, +2.7 UZR, and 2.2 WAR.  As a 2.0 WAR true talent player, he'll be worth his salary in the WAR-sense, but still seems like a bit of an overpay.  It probably would've been better for the Giants to non-tender him, and try to sign him for less as a free agent.
  • John Danks - The Miami Herald reports that the White Sox have agreed to terms with John Danks on a one year $6M deal.   Danks really seemed to come into his own last season making improvements with some small improvements his control and ground ball rates.  His strikeout rate is a little low for someone who induces whiffs on 9% of his pitches, but it's still acceptable.  Going into his age-26 season, he looks like a pretty solid bet to produce another 3-4 WAR season in 2011.   
  • Matt Garza - According to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, the Cubs have come to terms with Matt Garza on a one year deal worth $5.95M.  Garza was a "Super-Two" arbitration eligible player, so as a fourth year player, this was his second time through the process.  As I've mentioned a few times before, Garza put up solid primary numbers, but allowed more contact, induced fewer strikeouts, and saw a 4% drop in his already low ground ball rate.  Even with going to the weaker National League, Garza will have to turn around his peripherals if he's going to be able to sustain the kind of success his primary number indicate.  Garza is a 2.5 WAR true talent player, so he'll provide more than enough value to justify his salary in 2011.  He's going to have to improve upon that number over the next couple of years, if he's going to be able to justify his 2012 and 2013 arbitration salaries.
  • Carlos Quentin - The Miami Herald reports that Quentin and the White Sox have agreed in principle to a one year deal worth $5.05M.  After putting up a near-MVP quality season in 2008, Quentin has fallen on hard times over the past two seasons.  His batting average has plummeted, walk rate has dropped, and defense has deteriorated beyond repair.  It's gotten so bad for Quentin that he officially qualifies as a replacement player at this point.  The White Sox tried to unload him earlier this offseason, but not surprisingly, didn't find any takers.  Quentin will need to produce a solid season in 2011, or else he'll become a candidate to be non-tendered after the season.  He probably should've been non-tendered after 2010, but no GM wants to be the guy non-tendering a 28 year old hitter with 30-35 home run power.
  • Clint Barmes - According to Ken Rosenthal, the Astros and Clint Barmes agreed to a one year deal worth $3.95M.  This one actually makes the Papelbon deal look slightly palatable.  Between the Rockies and Astros last season, Barmes produced a pathetic .284 wOBA.  Keep in mind that he did this while hitting in two of the better hitters parks (Coors and Minute Maid) in baseball.  Going into his age-32 season, Barmes is a 1.0 WAR player at best.  If the Astros had been smart (which they're not), and non-tendered him at the beginning of the offseason, they probably could've re-signed him for a quarter of the cost. 
  • Jacoby Ellsbury - According to Sean McAdam, Jacoby Ellsbury has agreed to a one year $2.4M contract with the Boston Red Sox.  This was Ellsbury's first crack at arbitration, and he didn't fare too poorly considering he only played 18 games last season due to a recurring rib injury.  Ellsbury should be completely healthy going into the 2011 season, so there's no reason he shouldn't be able to repeat his 3.0 WAR performance from 2009.  He's going into his age-27 season, so a lot will be expected of him.  At some point, he's going to need to not only show marked improvement in his plate discipline, but also exhibit his vaunted raw power during games. 
There were many others who signed including Joba Chamberlain, Adam Jones, Josh Willingham, Joe Saunders, and Ryan Ludwick, but I think a ten player analysis is enough for now.  Other players will sign over the next month as they rush to avoid a potential arbitration hearing.  They won't come in a rush like the ones today though.  Instead, they'll trickle in.

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