Salary arbitration in Major League Baseball can often illicit a blank stare from fans. It’s based around a number of variables – service time, salary, and comparable players – that can be, for some, a bit dry. Salary arbitration isn’t as sexy as free agency namely because the player is staying put with his club.
It does, however, greatly influence how GMs and owners approach their player payrolls when it comes to free agency and whether they can entertain extensions to others on their rosters. Don’t believe me, ask Arte Moreno and the Angels who have 8 salary arb players this year (see a complete list of all 132 players).
But, what really makes salary arbitration wild is how it works within the calendar.
The final date that players can file for salary arbitration is Jan 15. Just three days later, players and clubs exchange salary figures.
It’s this latter date to keep in mind. While clubs and players can negotiate deals right up to any salary arbitration hearing, it is those exchange figures that suddenly lock the sides into using them for negotiations.
While there’s nothing that says that you have to stick to the exchange figures, it clearly plays a role. This graph is worth a thousand words. It shows salary arbitration signings from January 1 through Feb 20, the final day of salary arbitration hearings. The final day before figures needed to be exchanged in 2010 was 1/19. On that day, there were a whopping 68 contracts reached, and 13 the day prior showing just how big a role those exchange figures play – the sides scrambling to get deals done before they’re locked into the number.
So, mark Jan 18 this year on your calendar. There’ll be a mountain of contract signings that day.
OTHER SALARY ARBITRATION RESOURCES:
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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