The Blue Jays were able to avoid salary arbitration with Darwin Barney, Aaron Loup, and Ezequiel Carrera, but were unable to come to an agreement with Marcus Stroman ahead of the Jan 13th deadline.
With the offseason nearing completion, most MLB rosters are rounding into shape. One of the last considerations for the opening day roster is to get through salary arbitration, if the club has any players eligible. This year, the Blue Jays managed to avoid that scenario with everyone except their talented young starter, Marcus Stroman.
Stroman enters the 2017 season on the back of 204 innings pitched last season while earning 515,9000, and is seeking 3.4 million, to the Blue Jays’ offer of 3.1 million. This is Stroman’s first go around with arbitration, as he won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2020 season.
While under Alex Anthopoulos‘ leadership in the front office, the Blue Jays employed a “File & Trial” system when handling arbitration. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it essentially works like this:
a) Player and club negotiate on a number prior to the the arbitration deadline.
b) If they can’t come to an agreement, each side files for their requested salary figure. In Stroman’s case, the numbers were only $300,000 apart, so they were close.
c) This is where the “File and Trial” comes in. Some teams will continue to negotiate with the agent and player leading up to the salary arbitration meeting. Other teams like the Blue Jays, are unwilling to negotiate (a one year deal) past the arbitration filing period. Once they reach the stage of filing, the Blue Jays have allowed the arbitrator to settle the case. A notable exception of course, is Josh Donaldson, however, the 2015 MVP was able to reach a 2 year deal with the Blue Jays, which is why the club continued to negotiate.
Alex Anthopoulos was pretty clear on his stance regarding salary arbitration. His theory was that it brought clubs to the negotiating table earlier, and put the onus on the agent to be more willing to negotiate. Overall, the strategy was relatively successful for the former GM, as the process didn’t come back to bite him or the club in the way that many people feared it would.
Now that Anthopoulos is gone, talk of a “File & Trial” policy hasn’t been vocalized in the same way by Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins, but it appears the Blue Jays are still adopting the same policy. The question is, should they?
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There are arguments to be made for both stances, but it’s in cases like Stroman’s were the risk of going to arbitration increases. If you’re unfamiliar with arbitration, it’s not a fun process for anyone involved. Essentially, all parties gather around and talk about the value of the player and whether they are worth their requested salary. The agent talks about all the great attributes of the player, while the club has to focus on the negatives to argue the price down. When we’re talking about $300,000, is it worth potentially upsetting a talented youngster like Marcus Stroman?
The 2016 opening day starter finished the season with a 9-10 record and a 4.37 ERA over 204 innings pitched and 32 starts. While those numbers weren’t quite what the Blue Jays had hoped for, the reality is he was extremely valuable to the club. Pitchers who can throw 200 innings aren’t easy to come by, and considering he posted a 3.42 ERA over his final 102.2 innings, the 25 year old recovered well from a rough start to the season.
Here’s hoping both sides are continuing to negotiate a multi-year deal, as they did with Donaldson previously. While a “File & Trial” policy may make some sense when teams are far apart in negotiations, it seems to be an unnecessary process to go through when we’re talking about 300k. There is a risk of harming the relationship between the player and team when you start picking apart their game, so it’s definitely a delicate process, and the Jays will need to proceed with caution.
Maybe it’ll end up as a moot point with Stroman signing a multi-year deal, but regardless of how it plays out, the question I’m left asking is, “Is it worth arbitration over 300k?”.