February is a dynamic, short month. Certain areas of the United States experience their coldest temperatures of the year, but find that near the end of the month, it starts getting warmer and more enjoyable. Baseball is very similar in the month of February. The beginning of the month is marked by arbitration eligible players and their teams deep in negotiation over exchanged figures and possibly very mean and ugly arbitration hearings. But near the end of the month, arbitration fades away, and Spring Training brings players and teams hope that it will be a successful year for all.
Arbitration season is now officially over. Overall, the teams were victorious in 5 of the 8 arbitration hearings. The teams won in the following hearings: Ryan Theriot (Cubs), Wandy Rodriguez (Astros), B.J. Upton (Rays), Brian Bruney (Nationals), and Sean Burnett (Nationals). You read that correct; the Nationals had two hearings and won both of them (saving the team a total of $500,000 before attorney costs). But in the end, who really wins from the hearings? I think the following statement (from MLB.com) is very important to read.
[Sean] Burnett said Thursday night he was not upset about the arbitration process but wished he had come to an agreement with the team. He declined to say what the Nationals said about him during the hearing.
“It was interesting,” Burnett said by phone. “I learned a lesson. I don’t want to deal with it again.”
The three players who won their hearings were Cody Ross (Marlins), Corey Hart (Brewers), and Jeff Mathis (Angels). Corey Hart’s win surprised some, but after he won, most people predicted that Cody Ross would have an easier job proving his case by just comparing his numbers with Hart’s. Mathis is an interesting win. His win proves that the arbitrators do not look only at a player’s main offensive categories. For them to choose his $1.3 million offer, they had to look more at his defense and clutch hitting.
So let’s take a quick look back at the whole process. 128 players filed for arbitration, 44 players exchanged figures with their organizations, and only 8 went to hearing. History suggested that the teams would have a narrow margin of victory vs. the players. This turned out to be true.
The biggest win for the players was Corey Hart ($4.8 million vs. team’s offer of $4.15 million). The biggest win for the teams was Wandy Rodriguez ($5 million vs. player’s offer of $7 million).
Last year, only 3 players went to a hearing. In 2008, 8 players went to hearing (the same as this year). In 2008, the clubs had a slightly better record (6-2).