This offseason, the Diamondbacks had eight players who would have been eligible for arbitration (including Mark Trumbo). Very early in the offseason, Matt Reynolds signed a deal that was below projection for 2014 ($550,000) for what is expected to be primarily a rehabilitation year; in return, the team got the chance to essentially delay his climb up the salary scale with a $600,000 option for 2015. Also early in the offseason, Tony Sipp was released before the non-tender deadline, and Daniel Hudson was non-tendered in an uncomfortable move that later led to a comfortable Reynolds-ish deal. Finally, Brad Ziegler, who was eligible for arbitration for the fourth time as a super-two player, signed an extension that was good for Ziegler and excellent for Arizona.
Decisions on those four players left four more to be made in January (or February) of this year. Last week, four D-backs filed for arbitration. On the deadline for exchanging figures, Josh Collmenter and Joe Thatcher signed deals, leaving only Gerardo Parra and Mark Trumbo in the arb process.
Joe Thatcher was the only player of the four with only one year of team control left, and he signed a $2.375M pact that covers only 2014. I’m not sure what to make of this deal, as Thatcher was pretty bad after joining the D-backs, and the Swartz projections at MLBTR had him at an even $2M, up from the $1.35M he earned in a pre-arbitration deal with the Padres in 2013. As Jeff addressed in the bullpen part of his Steamer projection series, Thatcher was harmed by a higher-than-expected BABIP, but despite a lower-than-expected walk rate, he was still burned by home runs. I’m a little surprised that Arizona had to go above projection with Thatcher, but because this is his final arb year, there was less incentive to keep the salary down (as it won’t affect future arb salaries).
Collmenter’s deal is an extension with two guaranteed years and two option years that could include 2017, the first year that Collmenter could be eligible for free agency. The deal grants Collmenter a $925k salary for 2014, which was within close range of what was expected. It also includes a $1.825M salary for 2015, and a club option for 2016 at $1.825M. If the club option for 2016 is exercised, there’s a mutual option for 2017 — a $2M salary if both teams exercise the option, but a $150k buyout if the player does and the team does not, and a $2.25M salary if the team exercises the option and Collmenter does not. This is an incredible level of cost control for the team, paying Collmenter as a reliever, but not as a premium one. Collmenter was worth a full win over replacement in 2013, and he’s probably better in his current role than Randall Delgado would be. A great move for the team.
Exchanging figures with both Trumbo and Parra is curious. Trumbo filed for $5.85M, whereas the club’s figure was $3.4M — among all the players for whom figures were exchanged last Friday, that gap was third-largest in terms of dollars, and fifth-largest in terms of percentage. The Swartz projection was $4.7M for Trumbo, putting the player closer than the club. That’s an unenviable position for the club, as Trumbo has a pretty good incentive to take the case to a hearing. And the stakes are pretty high — Trumbo may go to arbitration two other times, so a $2.45M difference this year could make a $7M or so difference over the long haul. The fact that Arizona paid a high talent price for Trumbo probably will not help the club’s case, and while Trumbo’s value to the team is not as high as that of a player like Gerardo Parra, Trumbo has all of the counting statistics — HR, RBI, etc. — that tend to have a big impact on arbitration. In Trumbo, Arizona isn’t necessarily getting a boatload of production — they’re just getting the expensive kind.
As for Parra, the team seems to have taken a very different approach. The team’s figure ($4.3M) is actually above the Swartz projection for Parra ($4.2M). Proximity to the Swartz number is a pretty good touchstone for who might win in arbitration, and I’d say the team’s chances are great. This is not a situation in which we’d probably have a settlement at the midpoint of the two figures — the team has every reason to push for something very close to their $4.3M figure, rather than Parra’s $5.85M. I’ve done a lot of speculation about why Parra hasn’t signed an extension, and I’ll add some more here: it seems like the team outmaneuvered Parra in this process. Maybe Parra was expecting the team to file for around $3.5M. But the other possibility is that both team and player understand that he’s a unique case. Should be fascinating to follow.
The arbitrations were not the only big news this week, of course. Masahiro Tanaka is expected to make a decision on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, to permit teams enough time to administer a physical in advance of the Friday afternoon deadline. As Jeff wrote yesterday, the D-backs were one of at least five teams to submit a formal offer to Tanaka. Check out Jeff’s piece for a full breakdown.
On to the links:
- Depending on what you use as an exchange rate (and when you compute it), the D-backs’ offer to Tanaka could also be considered a 6-year, $106M deal. Keep in mind that this figure (10.5 billion yen) is coming from a Japanese report, so it’s possible that a figure of U.S. dollars got converted to yen, and now we’re converting it back. Fox Sports Arizona’s Jack Magruder has that $106M figure, and some other details on the Tanaka bid, including a tidbit about how Arizona actually employs a former teammate of Tanaka. Jim McLennan of AZ Snake Pit had it come out to about $115M.
- Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Cullen explains why Arizona needs to sign Tanaka. I agree with a lot of what Cullen writes here, but like our commenter Paulnh noted yesterday, Arizona does have some good pitching that makes Tanaka less of a necessity. Cullen also contends that Tanaka “would be a huge marketing opportunity for Arizona.” I’ve been doing some research on the financial benefits of signing Japanese players, and I’ll report back later this week — but my findings so far suggest that the marketing opportunity would be fairly small.
- MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert is participating in the D-backs Fantasy Camp at Salt River Fields, and he checked in with an update. It’s easy to forget that Bernard Gilkey is still getting paid by the D-backs for his tenure with the club almost fifteen years ago — Gilbert asked Gilkey about it at the camp.
- Baseball Prospectus published their list of D-backs top ten prospects (paywall). No surprise at number one, but I was surprised that Chris Owings came in number two, with average or better tools across the board. I probably shouldn’t have been; he was the number three for them last year, and there was attrition. Jose Martinez also ranked higher than I expected. Jeff’s top ten was published back in October, but even though a number of the top guys have since left the organization, there’s a lot of great insight there.
- For 2014, there’s a new, expanded replay system that involves off-site reviews. At Snake Pit, Jim McLennan has all of the details on replay, including the fact that the Australian D-backs/Dodgers games will be the first official games to use the new system.
- At Venom Strikes, Joe Jacquez wonders whether the shiny new Clayton Kershaw deal (which will pay him more than $30M per season) will affect the Tanaka bidding. I’ve been somewhat surprised by the numbers we’ve heard on Tanaka — I thought that Dave Cameron’s thoughts on crowdsourcing large contracts were persuasive, and that the bidding would reach above $150M.
- Finally, a Beyond the Box Score pitch: Jeff Wiser published on the best players who make the minimum in the AL (and will follow up with an NL piece soon), and I published a piece on the best fourth outfielders in baseball. I decided not to count any of the Arizona outfielders as fourth outfielders, but I do explain why I would have picked Gerardo Parra a year ago.
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