The Arbitration Dance
Today marked the first official day that the Cardinals engaged their five arbitration-eligible players in meaningful contract discussions. For those unaware, the five players in question are Jason Motte (2nd year of arbitration), David Freese (first year), Mitchell Boggs (first year), Marc Rzepczynski (first year), and Edward Mujica (final arbitration year).
Usually this process involves both the player and the team submitting their contract offers, and then splitting the difference before making a deal. More outrageous player demands usually results in an arbitration hearing. In most cases, the Cardinals offer contracts that are fair enough to avoid contentious arbitration hearings, which often result in fractured team/player relationships.
And, in typical Cardinal fashion, two contracts were swiftly concluded by the end of the first day. Boggs and Mujica signed one-year contracts with the Cardinals; Boggs received a contract worth $1.475M, and Mujica (just one year from free agency) received $3.2M.
That leaves three unresolved contracts. Here are the team offers and player demands:
- Freese: $3.75M
- Cardinals: $2.4M
Analysis: The largest contract difference among the arbitration-eligible, and a disturbing precedent for the remainder of Freese’s career here. It’s pretty clear that Freese is using his 2011 postseason performance to make a fast stab at a lot of cash. can’t blame him, of course, but it would need to be a pretty special player to receive $3.75M on their first arbitration year. Consider this: Albert Pujols never made more than a million dollars until he signed his long-term deal with the team in his third full season. Freese is no Pujols.
Granted, Freese played a crucial part in the incredible 2011 championship. He’s a hometown boy. He managed nearly an entire season last year. He also produced well in that first full season. But I’m not sure Freese warrants the steep pay increase he’s seeking.
- Motte: $5.5M
- Cardinals: $4.5M
Analysis: Given that Motte transformed into the closer during the 2011 championship and then turned in a stellar 2012 campaign, it’s easy to see that he probably deserves a substantial raise. Motte made $1.95M last year, so the Cardinals are more than doubling his salary with their offer. That seems very fair, and I doubt Motte would get more than that from arbitration. I bet he takes the club offer.
- Zeppo: $1.3M
- Cardinals: $900,000
Analysis: Zeppo needs to take whatever he can get. He had a dismal 2012 campaign, one marked by constant fits of confidence. I can’t imagine that Rzepczynski’s $1.3M price tag would go over well in an arbitration hearing given what he showed last year. Still, the two sides are so close that this one should never reach that stage.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the contracts given to Boggs and Mujica. It also seems that the Motte and Rzepczynski deals will be easy tasks, too. The Freese offer, however, give me pause. I have no idea why he thinks he should be making that much on his first pass through the arbitration process. He’s not a star yet, and the memories of two incredible postseason series should not dictate enormous contracts throughout his entire career.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ payroll jumps up to $105.752M after today’s signings. The team is clearly headed over the $110M barrier for the upcoming year.