Avoiding arbitration, a Blue Jays winter tradition since 1998

Found this picture searching "lawyers" in the photo bank. - Alex Grimm

Will the Blue Jays hold the longest streak by March?

Once again, the Toronto Blue Jays managed to avoid going to arbitration hearings with any of their eligible players by agreeing to terms with Brett Cecil, Colby Rasmus, and Esmil Rogers on Friday before salary figures were exchanged. It pushes the Blue Jays' streak to 16 years without going through the awkward process where the club has to basically trash-talk their players in front of three lawyers in order to justify their salary offer.

The Blue Jays have only gone to eight arbitration hearings, the last being with Bill Risley in 1997, who asked for $550,000 while the club offered $380,000. The arbitrators ruled in favour of the Blue Jays in that case, pushing the franchise's all-time arbitration record to five wins and three losses:

  1. 1980: Dave Lemanczyk (RHP) LOST in arbitration. Club offered $130k, he asked for $165k.
  2. 1980: Roy Howell (3B) WON in arbitration. Club offered $110k, he asked for $133k.
  3. 1982: Dave Stieb (RHP) LOST in arbitration. Club offered $250k, he asked for $325k.
  4. 1983: Damaso Garcia (2B) WON in arbitration. Club offered $300k, he asked for $400k.
  5. 1983: Roy Lee Jackson (RHP) LOST in arbitration. Club offered $155k, he asked for $225k.
  6. 1988: Tom Henke (RHP) LOST in arbitration. Club offered $725k, he asked for $1.025MM.
  7. 1991: Roberto Alomar (2B) WON in arbitration. Club offered $825k, he asked for $1.25MM.
  8. 1997: Bill Risley (RHP) LOST in arbitration. Club offered $380k, he asked for $550k.

However, the Blue Jays are not the holders of the longest active streak: the Cleveland Indians headed into arbitration with Jerry Browne and Greg Swindell in 1991 and haven't been back since. Currently, six teams have yet to go through arbitration in the 21st century: the Indians, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Tigers, Mariners, and Rangers.

There are still several weeks until the hearings begin, but the Indians are in danger of breaking their streak: they have exchanged figures with Josh Tomlin, Justin Masterson, and Michael Brantley. Tomlin is just $175,000 apart, Brantley is $1.1 million apart, but Masterson is $3.75 million apart with his club. Masterson is asking for $11.8 million and the Indians have offered $8.05 million, making it the largest arbitration gap in 2014. The Cardinals, Mariners, and Tigers also have pending arbitration cases.

Last year was the first year Major League Baseball saw no arbitration hearings since the mid-1970's, but it looks like there will be at least three cases this season as the Atlanta Braves have announced that they will go into hearings with Craig Kimbrel, Freddy Freeman, and Jason Heyward.

And because you were too kind to ask for it, here is a compiled list of the last arbitration case(s) each team has gone through, sorted in chronological order of the year of the last hearing:

Team
Last Hearing
Player
Player Figure
Team Figure
Winner
Indians 1991 Jerry Browne $ 1,100,000 $ 800,000 Club
Indians 1991 Greg Swindell $ 2,025,000 $ 1,400,000 Player
Blue Jays 1997 Bill Risley $ 550,000 $ 380,000 Club
Cardinals 1999 Darren Oliver $ 4,150,000 $ 3,550,000 Club
Tigers 2000 Karim Garcia $ 700,000 $ 475,000 Player
Mariners 2000 Brian L. Hunter $ 2,450,000 $ 1,750,000 Player
Rangers 2000 Lee Stevens $ 475,000 $ 350,000 Club
Diamondbacks 2001 Damian Miller $ 1,250,000 $ 850,000 Player
Braves 2001 Andruw Jones $ 8,200,000 $ 6,400,000 Player
Braves 2001 Kevin Millwood $ 3,900,000 $ 3,100,000 Club
Braves 2001 John Rocker $ 2,980,000 $ 1,900,000 Club
White Sox 2001 Keith Foulke $ 3,100,000 $ 2,200,000 Player
Red Sox 2002 Ronaldo Arrojo $ 2,800,000 $ 1,900,000 Club
Reds 2004 Chris Reitsma $ 1,450,000 $ 950,000 Club
Giants 2004 A.J. Pierzynski $ 3,500,000 $ 2,250,000 Player
Athletics 2005 Juan Cruz $ 860,000 $ 600,000 Club
Royals 2006 Emil Brown $ 1,775,000 $ 1,400,000 Club
Twins 2006 Kyle Lohse $ 3,950,000 $ 3,400,000 Player
Dodgers 2007 Joe Beimel $ 1,250,000 $ 912,500 Club
Padres 2007 Todd Walker $ 3,950,000 $ 2,750,000 Player
Rockies 2008 Brian Fuentes $ 6,500,000 $ 5,050,000 Club
Mets 2008 Oliver Perez $ 6,500,000 $ 4,725,000 Player
Yankees 2008 Chien-Ming Wang $ 4,600,000 $ 4,000,000 Club
Phillies 2008 Ryan Howard $ 10,000,000 $ 7,000,000 Player
Cubs 2010 Ryan Theriot $ 3,400,000 $ 2,600,000 Club
Astros 2011 Hunter Pence $ 6,900,000 $ 5,150,000 Player
Angels 2011 Jared Weaver $ 8,800,000 $ 7,365,000 Club
Orioles 2012 Brad Bergesen $ 1,200,000 $ 800,000 Club
Marlins 2012 Anibal Sanchez $ 8,000,000 $ 6,900,000 Player
Marlins 2012 Emilio Bonifacio $ 2,200,000 $ 1,950,000 Player
Brewers 2012 Jose Veras $ 2,375,000 $ 2,000,000 Club
Pirates 2012 Garrett Jones $ 2,500,000 $ 2,250,000 Club
Rays 2012 Jeff Niemann $ 3,200,000 $ 2,750,000 Club
Nationals 2012 John Lannan $ 5,700,000 $ 5,000,000 Club

Of course, even though there was a column for who won each case, the reality is that in arbitration, nobody wins. Well, except for the lawyers.

Source: The Biz of Baseball's "MLB Salary Arbitration Scoreboard"

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