FanPost

Jays Overly Aggressive with Arb Filing Strategy and Policy?


Since we now have the figures that teams and arbitration eligible players have exchanged, it appears to me that the differences between the Jays and their two players are almost insignificant, and hardly seem worthy of going through a hearing (especially for Janssen, who will be a free agent after 2012 so it doesn't impact future hearings). Of course, it's quite possible either or both sides submitted different figures than what they were negotiating with as final offers, and that's why the gap is so small; but nevertheless, the Jays "file and trial" policy would seem to dictate that either they work out some sort of multiyear deal (which may be part of the hang-up), or end up going to a hearing.

I wondered if the Jays, relative to the rest of the filings, had smaller differences between player and team filings. This may reflect an overly aggressive policy (and perhaps needlessly so, given that arbitration hearings are adversial in nature and can engender hard feelings and resentments). Also, we saw a similarly small difference with Jason Frasor last year. I used MLBTR's Arb Tracker to compile a list of all filings from this year, eliminating the few cases where the team and player have already agreed after filing this afternoon. Below, I have then sorted by absolute difference (player filing less team filing) and relative difference (player filing divided by team filing):


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Looking over, it appears that both the relative and absolute gaps are pretty small. Again, I don't want to make any inferences about the team strategy from a couple of cases, but there does seem to be a bit of pattern between these cases and Jason Frasor. I do feel comfortable saying that the Jays post-filing policy as currently articuled seems overly absolute and ill-suited for such a scenario (of course, it's possible that much like the "Blue Jays employees are always free to seek other opportunities" policy, there's some logical, unstated nuances).

There's one other question I had after looking at this. It would intuitively seem that the differences are more important the more arbitration eligible years remain for the player before free agency, since the outcome will be magnified by future increases though the arb process. For example, the difference between $2-million and $2.5 million might not be important if the player is going to be a free agent and have his future salaries determined by the free market, so team and player might just split the difference to avoid a hearing. But if it's the basis for future increases, both sides might dig in (for example, using the 40/60/80 rule, a player gets an increase of 50% the second time (60/40) and 33% the last time (80/60), so the final salary would be $5.3M vs. $6.67M, and the total difference would be over $2-million. This might play out through the filings. To check this, I plotted arb years remaining (omitting FAs who agreed to arb and Super 2s who have 4 total years) against the relative difference:

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There is a resonably strong trend indicating that the teams and players have larger differences the more arb years are left. This helps explains why there's a gap with Janssen - in fact, knowing nothing else, we'd expect about a 23% difference for Janssen. But, it doesn't help explain Morrow.

Finally, I've plotted the relative difference against the midpoint of the filings to see whether there's a pattern in how large the stakes are in dollar terms that could explain why the differences for the two Jays are so small:

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There's really no trend here to help us explain anything regarding the filing differences. So we're left with little to explain the Jays' approach to arb negotiations that result in filings, and again too small a sample in my opinion from which to draw inferences. The difference with Janssen seems more within the mainstream and explainable, the difference with Morrow seems rather insignificant - hopefully they're working on an extension or something.

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