Where Do We Go From Here? 2004 (Part II: Arbitration)

Player (2004 Salary)

Rafael Furcal ($3,700,000)
Marcus Giles ($430,000)
Mark DeRosa ($725,000)
Chr*s R**tsm* ($950,000)
Kevin Gryboski ($377,000)
Juan Cruz ($370,000)

I am not certain on Cruz. He’s spent parts of four seasons in the majors, and I think he has three years’ service time. At any event, a lot of Braves are hoping for a visit from the Arbitration Fairy to boost their paychecks.

In arbitration, the key isn’t really how good you are, it’s how long you’ve been in the majors and how much money the guys who fit your profile make. (That’s why one bozo like Jerry Colangelo can mess up the arbitration structure for everyone.) So you don’t think about what a player’s “worth” — you think about what players with similar track records have made in the past.

It’s hard to find a similar recent player to Rafael Furcal; he matches better with the shortstops of the eighties or indeed the twenties and thirties. Jimmy Rollins is close, but the two have basically the same service time. If one goes to arbitration (remember, most arbitration cases are settled) he will certainly use the other as a comp. I’m going to say that the most-similar recent case to Furcal is Edgar Renteria. Renteria made $6 million in his sixth season in the bigs. I don’t know if Furcal will make that (Renteria had made two All-Star teams to Rafael’s one, and was starting to get attention as a possible Gold Glover, plus salaries were still going up then), but I’m guessing within a million either way.

As I noted below, and Sansho elaborated, there is a good comp for Marcus Giles in Jose Vidro. Vidro, like Giles, had made one All-Star team, had unusual power for a second baseman, and had had a few injuries. Vidro’s numbers are probably a little better on a superficial level, but they’re very close for their best seasons. Vidro made $2.5 million on a long-term contract he signed headed into his arbitration season. Marcus’ people might try to compare him to Alfonso Soriano, who now (after 2004 stats are taken into account) shows up as his most-similar player using similarity scores and who made $5.4 million last year. I don’t know if they can pull that off. Soriano is overrated, but he’s made three All-Star teams, finished third in the MVP balloting one year, and hit 39 and 38 homers in back-to-back seasons.

I don’t think that the Braves will go to arbitration with DeRosa, considering his injury; he was getting pricey for a moderately accomplished utility infielder anyway. If he’s back, I’d think it would have to be on a minor league contract. They may simply cut him loose and give his job to Betemit.

R**tsm* went to arbitration last year and got the above deal when he lost. Yes, he got nearly a million dollars, and was disappointed. And nobody gets their salaries cut in arbitration. If I were running the Braves, I would say, “Chr*s, you can sign this deal for $750K next year with an option for 2006, or you can leave and test the waters. I hope for your sake that nobody saw Game Five of the NLDS.” I am not running the Braves, and they gave up a couple of promising pitchers (though those pitchers seem to have washed out) to get him, and I don’t know if they’d actually non-tender him. If they don’t, he’ll certainly get a raise, perhaps to the $1.5 million range.

Gryboski, meanwhile, is the very picture of a reliever you cut loose as soon as he starts to make money. There are guys like this floating around out there all the time. But Bobby likes him, he’s been on the staff longer than anyone but Smoltz (really, it’s completely turned over in the last three seasons) and he had a 2.84 ERA this season even though he didn’t pitch that well. I would dump him if he wants any sort of a raise; a guy like this can easily make a million dollars a year if you aren’t careful.

Like I said, I’m not certain of Cruz’s service time, but I think he’s at three years, or if not will be a Super Two. (Don’t ask, I don’t understand it myself.) The Braves rarely used Cruz in pressure situations, as you know. And as you also know, his numbers are quite good: a 2.70 ERA in 72 innings, 70 strikeouts. I honestly have no idea what the arbitration process would yield in such a case — a promising young pitcher with good numbers who is almost never used to win or lose a game — but I would think high six figures.

I should mention Johnny Estrada. I’m pretty sure that he isn’t at the Super-Two threshold. The Braves might, however, sign him to a three or four year deal to make him happy now and avoid future arbitration. Or they could be willing to go year-to-year on the theory that Brian McCann will be up in 2006 or 2007.

20 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here? 2004 (Part II: Arbitration)”

  1. Great job Mac. I have always thought we need to put aside around $5M for arbitration cases and other players salary increases (I think Thomson is due for an $1M increase). Based on your analysis, I think that $5M figure is around right. So, we dump around $20M for departures of free agents, and we lost $5M of that $20M for arbitrations and other players’ salary increases, which leaves us around $15M to sign a No 1 starter and a RF. A single Carlos Beltran will cost around $15M…

  2. There are a lot of pitchers on the market this year, but few outfielders of quality. It’s mostly Beltran, the two injury risks Ordonez and Drew, and a lot of old or otherwise marginal guys.

    Pure speculation: The Braves sign Kristin Benson and Richard Hidalgo from the Mets. I’m not saying that’s necessarily what I want to happen — though I still like Hidalgo — but it seems reasonable, and they’ve had interest in both players in the past.

    There is a possibility that the Braves could trade Furcal, as has been rumored, which would clear up about $5 million. I’d think they’d only do that if there was an elite player they were interested in. I just don’t see how in the current market they could replace Furcal’s production for less.

  3. Mac, I would certainly hope they wouldn’t sign Hidalgo. However, there might be signs in the past that they like Benson quite a bit (even though I don’t quite understand).

    If they trade away Furcal and clear that $5M, they may as well just go after Beltran…

  4. Your analysis seems right on the money but I do take issue with your opinion of Soriano. A great player that has better skills that Marcus IMHO. Better speed and he hits for average. I consider his season with the Rangers as a “shock to the system” and he still put up good numbers. We all forget that players like Giles have yet to truly establish their consistancy, for instance, like Chipper Jones eventually did. By the way, Vidro is an excellant player. Put him on a team with a chance of winning and he’ll do all that Giles does plus some. Dangerous.

  5. Brian, I said I didn’t think that Marcus’ agent could make that comparison stick. Marcus’ best season, the 2003 campaign when he made the All-Star team and missed little time, is comparable to Soriano’s — a little less on the slugging side, but many more walks, overall value to Marcus. But Soriano has had more good years. I think he’s overrated because he doesn’t walk — career OBP .323, career best .338 — and isn’t a good defensive player, but at his best he’s Vlad Lite, and that’s a good thing to be.

    BTW, I should add that Soriano’s keystone partner Michael Young is another one for the Furcal/Rollins comp pile. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rangers gave Young a big deal this offseason, and that might drive up Furcal’s chances in arbitration.

    I think this is exactly the time to take a flyer on Hidalgo. He had a rough year, but hitting .228 in Shea Stadium isn’t that unusual, and he still hit 25 homers. His strikeouts were slightly up, but the rest of his stats were fine, except for the BA, which screams fluke/park problems to me. I would have been against Hidalgo for the $12.5 million he made last year, but why not risk $5 million on a chance at a year like 2003, when he hit .309/.385/.572, and continued good defense in right field?

  6. Mac, I find it hard to be as optimistic about Hidalgo as you are. To me, he is a even bigger waste of talent than Andruw, and we really don’t need two of those players on the same team. For Drew, it is a matter of getting him healthy. For Hidalgo, it is a matter of getting him motivated. One year contract may be a good motivation, but he should have his motivation last year being his contract year.

    I think Hidalgo will be an even bigger gamble than Drew, and perhaps Ordonez may be a better bet than Hidalgo.

  7. Hidalgo is kind of like Andruw, but there’s an important difference. Andruw varies wildly within the season, but at the end of the year he usually winds up hitting .270 or so with 30-35 homers. He’s actually eerily consistent that way. Hidalgo has hit as low as .227 and as high as .314. His career averages are similar to Andruw’s — .273/.350/.497 — but he’s never really had an average year.

    Yes, he’d be riskier than Drew or Ordonez, but Hidalgo is a much smaller gamble than them. Bring him in, and you might still have money to re-sign Wright and take a flyer on another pitcher or outfielder. You sign Drew or Ordonez — unless the doctors warn the teams off and their prices plummet — and that’s your whole wad, and you’re committing yourself to, among other things, increased Reitsmosity in either the closer’s or a starter’s role.

    I say $5 million, but he might not get that. Admitting that Hidalgo is three years younger and hasn’t had the health problems, consider Reggie Sanders, who got $1.5 million the year after he left Atlanta. I could see Hidalgo signing a two-year deal for $4.5 million with lots of incentives. Even if he only has a ten percent chance of repeating 2003, that’s a pretty good gamble at these prices, and I think he probably would have at least one 2003-type year in two.

  8. Mac, while I understand your reasoning. However, this is one hell of a gamble…not in terms of financial commitment, but because I think it is safe to assume that we will only sign one outfielder this year since we have Thomas, Marrero and Andruw (or do we carry five OFs?). If Hidalgo’s experience fails, we don’t have a back-up plan.

    On the other hand, Andruw’s performance in this year’s playoff gives me hope that he will finally break out next year…

  9. Mac, thanks for the great analysis.
    I think the Braves will make a trade for an Of bat. IMHO none of the free agent OFs is either affordable or desirable. I don’t see Hidalgo as being an option. But your reasoning does have some merit as the Braves got damn lucky with Drew. Don’t forget Langerhans. I think that he makes the club next year taking over the Thomas half of the LF platoon. Or since he is adept defensively he and Marrero share RF while the Braves find a LF bat. I don’t think that this will happen but there is always Marte. With a good spring he could be our starting LF next season. I don’t think the club asks Chipper to move back to the OF.

  10. On DeRosa. I think the Braves re sign him at closer to ML minimum. They have to have some insurance at SS. They clearly define his role as reserve right from the start. DeRo signs knowing that his only other option is AAA for some other club.
    This might be Furcal’s last season as a Brave. Offensively he was one of the top SS in the NL. He’ll command a princely sum in arbitration and then see what free agency holds for him. I’ll be shocked if he signs long term.
    On Giles. I hope that the Braves are looking to lock him up long term like they did Chipper, Andrew and Smoltz. A second baseman that can hit like him is a very rare commodity. Its a gamble since Marcus has only a couple of seasons of goodness on his resume. But I think that the Braves should take the gamble as I think he is special like Chipper has turned out to be.

  11. I still say they trade Andruw, re-sign Drew and go get a cheaper centerfielder or corner outfielder. Andruw could bring something significant in return. Unless you really think Andruw is going to break out (dubious IMO after 8 years), he is making too much money–they can probably resign Drew for what they are paying Andruw. The days of the $15 mm contracts are gone and there aren’t that many teams that are able or willing to pay big money, especially to a Boras client.

  12. MWS. The Braves tried their asses off to trade him near the middle of the season. Fortunately the trade never consumated because the object of our affections, Ordonez, didn’t play another game during the season. The only way a trade in the off season can be completed is if the Braves agree to take on a portion of Andruw’s salary. So while it makes fiscal sense to trade a guy that can be replaced by a guy getting paid 1/2 as much, whats better? Paying 6 to 7 million for Andruw to play for someone else and take our chances on an unknown quantity or continue to pay for Andruw’s .268/.243/.492, superior defense (at least they say), and hot streaks where he can power a team and figure the ‘overpay’ he gets for his performance is sunk cost? It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he were traded since Schuerholz is as creative s they come but I doubt that anyone takes on a 13 million dollar outfielder when you can pay 5 to 6 for the same level of performance.

  13. Great analysis.

    I don’t know what to do with Furcal. Around August, I was ready to let him walk. Then the DUI, and ironically he seems more focused again.

    In the LDS, he resembled the player I think he can be. He seemed more patient and steadier in the field. He just seems to have those weeks (sometimes months) where it looks like he doesn’t know the first thing about playing baseball, especially in the field.

    What I guess I’m saying is, tough choice.

    If they are going to ink anyone long term, I’d sign Giles. He seems more and more to be the key to this team. Folks can toss range factors and zone ratings around, but he’s not much more than an average second baseman in the field. But he can hit and (beware, scout language ahead) he has some intangibles that the Braves seem to need.

    My guess is DeRosa is non-tendered and that may be Reitsma’s fate as well. DeRosa was becoming over-priced anyhow, but it’s sad to see him head out on an injury. Almost as sad is the case of Reitsma, where the moral of the story seems to be “95 ain’t fast enough if you serve it on a plate.” And man, that change-up just started to sit there and wait to be hit by the end of the year.

    Count me among those who vote “no” on Hidalgo, but your logic is sound and my guess is he’ll be available at “Moonlight Madness” prices. He wouldn’t be the worst option and he probably can be signed to a one or two year deal, which wouldn’t block Franceour. I am skeptical that Eli and CT can repeat their performance from this year. I was one who, after he was obtained, thought the Braves did well in getting Marrero, but I think he was way above projections this year. Thomas has to quit watching tapes of Raffy hitting and drop out of the “swing or get shot” school.

    It would be nice if Drew would agree to a reasonable 3-year deal, but I wonder if his late season swoon was due to the fact that he played a lot more than he usually played during the regular season.

  14. One interesting thing about Drew is that he taile doff near the end of the season. I’m guessing it was that he hadn’t played that many games before in a season. Next year, he should be better conditioned, so his production should improve. I vote no on Hildago. The Astros got rid of him for a reason. I also vote no on Derosion. Let him become the next Graffinino. He wants to play everyday, so let him go do it and have a good career elsewhere.

    Don’t get rid of your core of Andruw, Giles Chipper and now LaRoche. LaRoche came on strong in the 2nd half of the season, and he’s gonna turn out much better than what we had in the past. I think you try to get one outfielder. Go for Drew, then try to trade if that doesn’t work out. Thomas and Marrero can platoon quite well. Chipper will be an All-Star next year at third.

    Let Ortiz go pitch his way somewhere else (the Yankees), and re-sign Byrd on the cheap along with Wright for a multi-year deal. He proved he could pitch, but tried too hard in the post-season. That’ll give you five starters. Then you go out and pick up cast-offs like in years past.

  15. Johnny,

    You may be right that Andruw is untradeable without the Braves paying a lot of the salary. I’m not trying to bash him, but it’s obvious they are not going to be able to keep both him and Drew, so it’s a question of who do you want? BTW, does anyone know when Andruw’s contract is up?

    Some good points about Drew tailing off due to playing more than he had. His power disappeared almost entirely by the end of the year although he was incredible at getting on base.

  16. While we’re talking money, I looked it up and Andruw is due a half million raise in 2005, and Chipper’s salary is getting bumped up a full mill. (just a little bit less in the slush fund, I guess.)

  17. Here’s a thought: what do you think the odds are that the Braves target Jermain Dye if they can’t land Drew? I’d perfer Dye to Hidalgo every time

  18. I wouldn’t. I don’t know why Hidalgo has problems, but I know why Dye does: he’s broken. He started well, but was awful in the second half, practically singlehandedly dragging the A’s down to where the Angels could catch them. His second-half line was .231/.305/.397.

    I’m drafting the outfield comment in my head, and if the Braves can’t re-sign Drew or make a deal for someone like Dunn — and could even the Reds be that cheap and that stupid? — Hidalgo is starting to look like the best option. Honestly, the outfield bunch, after the big three, is all old guys and people even more questionable than Hidalgo.

  19. I have my own little internal vision of what the outfield options are that the Braves will face and their repercussions:
    1) attempt to re-sign Drew but fail due to his high asking price.
    2) attempt to get Hidalgo but fail because his contract is too high and the Mets won’t carry any of it.
    3) take a run at Jacque Jones (please Lord NO!) and then come to their senses, knowing that he and Andruw would combine for 300 strikeouts.
    4) look at Jermaine Dye – because Bobby once compared him to Fred McGriff – and then realize that he’s even more overvalued than Andruw is and decline the pursuit.
    5) settle for Eli Marrero in RF, pulling Langerhans to the 25-man to be the backup, with Chucky T as the starter in LF.

    I actually don’t mind seeing Marrero as a starter and Bobby thinks he’s an “All Star if he gets to play every day”. I don’t feel like his numbers were an aberration, despite that funky swing of his.

    I don’t understand Reitsma. He has the best changeup I’ve ever seen but he has no idea of when to throw it. He throws it WAAAAAAAY too much, without establsihing his heater in a good spot. As was stated before: he serves it on a plate. If Leo couldn’t tweak him in a full season, I really hope he isn’t back; non-tender this one please.

    I’m beginning to wonder if Giles isn’t going to be injury-prone. He had the ankle 2 years ago; the clavicle this year. If a choice had to be made between Giles and Furcal, I’d have to go with Fukie, despite his streakiness. My ‘druthers would be to keep both of them, obviously, but if it came down to it…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *