I am far from an arbitration expert, but the book on the process over the years is that it is one to be avoided for several reasons.
For one thing, there is no baby splitting, meaning that if you lose, the other side’s number wins, and nothing in between. Yes, this is probably intended as an incentive to deal, but if no deal is reached in the meantime, there is a lot of risk involved.
Another thing people hate about arbitration is that it forces a team to essentially poor-mouth their own player right in front of him, or at least his representative. Want to win an arbitration? You have to explain why your guy is nowhere near the player of the three or four comparables his lawyer has up on the PowerPoint. That can’t be good for morale.
Finally, there are the lawyers themselves. An arbitration is an adversary proceeding, and that requires lawyers and fees and prep time and all of that, and no matter who is footing the bill, an adversary proceeding can be expensive.
Fresh off a campaign in which Hamels established himself as one of the game’s most dominant pitchers and became a World Series MVP at age 25, the young lefthander and his agent are prepared to cash in on his early success. But just how big of a payday they will reap remains to be seen. While logic says the Phillies would be prudent to lock up their young ace to a long-term deal, Hamels won’t be a free agent until after the 2012 season, meaning the Phillies control his rights for the next four seasons.
Enter the wonderful world of salary arbitration, which begins today, the first of a 10-day period when major leaguers with at least 3 years of experience – and a select few with at least 2 – can file for the process.
Hamels, like slugging first baseman Ryan Howard, is a special case, one who has little precedent with which to compare.
A season that started with him publicly expressing his discontent with his $500,000 salary ended with him winning the NLCS and World Series MVPs on top of throwing 227 1/3 innings in the regular season, second in the National League.
I’m really not the right guy to run the numbers — and maybe there aren’t enough numbers to be run at this point — but I wonder if there is some method to the Phillies madness or if, alternatively, they are simply penny wise and pound foolish. I mean, it’s possible that someone has made a reasoned analysis that paying Hamels arbitration awards for the next three or four years and then letting him walk is a more efficient than signing him to a long term deal now. But if such an analysis exists, is it the same kind of analysis that led to the Phillies preferring Raul Ibanez over Pat Burrell? Like I said, I don’t have a strong opinion here because this really isn’t my area of expertise, but it certainly seems like Philadelphia is doing things differently with their young stars than any other team is.
Maybe they’re right to do so — they are the World Champs, after all — but I wonder.