Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Arbitration Notes

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One of the blessings of TwinsGeek.com (and now MNGameDay.com) is that it provides the opportunity for the Twins community to educate each other a bit about some of baseball's intricacies. That occurred yesterday, when long-time reader Mark sent an email pointing to a Cleveland Indians blog which contained some details surrounding arbitration that I didn't know.

Arbitration is not a trivial issue to Twins fans. At a high level, it provides a point of outrage for Twins fans every year as one of their least favorite players is given a ridiculous raise. But for baseball geeks, it's much more. The Twins rely on young players, and they're limited by money, and arbitration is all about young players starting to make the money they're worth. It isn't an exageration to say that if you understand arbitration, you can gain a much clearer idea of the Twins future.

I encourage you to click over to the article, because it's full of good info and interesting to anyone paying attention to moves an AL Central rival makes. While explaining arbitration, it also illustrates why the Indians traded Coco Crisp this offseason, and why Andy Marte likely won't be called up before the end of the season. Again, read it yourself, but I'll highlight a couple of points that I found interesting:

How to read a player's service time
This is going to make me sound stupid, but at wonderful sites like Cot's Baseball Contracts, I've been reading the notes for service time incorrectly for years. When it says that coming into the season Justin Morneau had service time of 1.168, I thought it was truly a decimal, so he was closer to one year's service time instead of two. Wrong. Instead, it means that Morneau has one year plus 168 days of service time (out of 172 days). In other words, Morneau is just a couple days short of two years of service time.

Super 2 Cutoffs
One of the more infuriating aspects of arbitration is that it the cutoff isn't clean. Anyone with over three years of service time is arbitration eligible, but "Super 2" players are also eligible, and trying to figure out who Super 2 players are has been mostly guesswork.

It still is, but at least the guesswork is a little more precise now. The article clarifies that the Super 2 cutoff is usually between 2.130 and 2.140, so that helps tremendously in figuring out who will qualify for Super 2 arbitration in the next couple of years.

Back to the Twins, this also makes it a bit clearer just exactly when some players will be arbitration eligible:

Justin Morneau will certainly be arbitration eligible. He came into the year with 1.168 days, and will be on the roster the whole year.

Lew Ford will be arbitration eligible. He may have just missed being a Super 2 this year. He came into the year with 2.123 service time which is close to the cutoff.

Jason Kubel will be arbitration eligible after the 2007 season. He gets credit for a lot of that time on the Disabled List, but he's still at just 1.034 coming into the season, and will probably be a little over two years at the end of the season if he's not send down.

Jesse Crain will also be arbitration eligible after the 2007. He came into the year with 1.064. He'll be quite a bit short of Super 2 status.

Jason Bartlett conspiracy theorists, unite. Bartlett came into the year with 148 days of service time. If he had been with the Twins the whole year, he likely would have been arbitration eligible after 2007, due to Super 2 status. By waiting two months to call him up, the Twins essentially ruined any chance of that happening. Bartlett will be eligible for arbitration, at best, after 2008. (It's not a very similar case, since Terry Tiffee isn't seen as a long-term starter for the Twins, but Tiffee came into the year with 144 days of service time. He was also called up at the same time.)

While leaving Bartlett in Rochester undoubtedly hurt the Twins for the first couple of months this season, it may have been a very fiscally prudent thing to do. By having him spend two months in Rochester, they gained an eatra year of affordability.

8 comments:

ubelmann said...

By having him spend two months in Rochester, they gained an extra year of affordability.

They may have also burned some bridges by starting out the season so slowly. More wins early could've meant more tickets sold, so potentially they lost money on this little transaction.

HrbekIsMyHero said...

Great article, John. More fans should be made aware of all this stuff because I'm quite sure the Twins use these data in making what we think are occasionally indefensible personnel moves. I didn't figure out the decimal vs. days of service time notation in Cot's until about two months ago, and then it begins to make more sense. S'pose we should have figured since every player's service time was between .000 and .170 or so at the decimal level it wasn't really a "true" decimal, huh?

So...by this logic, Scottie Baker's return to MLB should be delayed until after July 31st trading deadline expires. If he's brought back to start on Jul 17 and sticks to the end of the year, he's over 1 year service time...

Or are we all just over analyzing again?

SBG said...

By having him spend two months in Rochester, they gained an extra year of affordability.

By signing Tony Batista to a $1.3 million contract, it could be argued that they negated that affordability.

spycake said...

Although the Batista cost was most egregious, we also paid Castro rougly $400k for his 2+ months of work. Bartlett would have still made less than that playing the entire season. I can't imagine delaying his arbitration was their motivation here -- there are a lot of guys better (i.e. more expensive) than Bartlett or Tiffee whom they haven't delayed at all, or starters they've kept in bullpen roles (Santana, Liriano) when they could have still been in AAA, off the arb clock.

JimCrikket said...

Neshek just got his call up, according to his web site.

Sounds like he's excited to get his shot... and not yet thinking about when he'll be eligible for arbitration.

hrbekismyhero said...

I wasn't suggesting Bartlett was sent to AAA to save on his service time. However, the decision not to start Liriano in Rochester will come back to haunt them for big big dollars down the road. I know one can argue that his bullpen stints "better prepared" him for the starting role, but a month in Rochester would have been just as effective, in all likelihood.

As for other decisions, such as whether to bring Baker up on July 17 or July 24, yeah, I would argue foregoing a start or two is worth the money for a small market club like the Twins.

BTW, while no one approved of Batista/Castro, the difference between a player gaining service time by just exceeding the stated norms would add up to several million dollars over a six year serfdom/arbitration period, far more than the 400 K or the 1.3 M paid to TBat, as long as we're arguing the point...laughs.

Drake33 said...

There's 3 other articles on that page that are very good as well. Yeah, it's all Tribe related, but it's really a good primer on "how MLB works".

http://letsgotribe.com/story/2005/10/18/154322/64

http://letsgotribe.com/story/2005/10/19/04112/304

http://www.letsgotribe.com/story/2005/10/19/02852/222

There's a link to all of these articles on his/her front page. Down on the right...

Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

God Bless you Geek,
This is awesome....
Gamer