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.