Can Sox keep their arbitration-free streak intact?

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Can Sox keep their arbitration-free streak intact?

You probably know the Red Sox have not been to arbitration since 2002, when Dan Duquette was the general manager. Give yourself a couple of baseball IQ points if you knew the last player with whom the Sox went to arbitration was right-hander Rolando Arrojo, before his final season in the major leagues. Tack on a few more points if you knew that the Sox won that case, with a bid for a salary of 1.9 million to Arrojos bid for 2.8 million.Still, the Sox dont hold the record for avoiding arbitration. Cleveland last went in 1991, Toronto in 1997, and St. Louis in 1999. Some teams just prefer to avoid the process.
Tal Smith has been in baseball for over 50 years and was with the Astros for 35, most recently as president since 1994, until he was unceremoniously dismissed by new owner Jim Crane in November. Smith also runs his own company, Tal Smith Enterprises, which he began in 1981, that offers consulting services to major league teams.
With more than 150 arbitration cases on his resume, he is considered the arbitration guru.Some clubs dont like to go. They think it scars the player, Smith said of arbitration. I dont subscribe to that. Obviously it depends on whos presenting and how they approach it. Weve done over 150 cases and I can think of only about three where it really became a little bit testy and adversarial. Basically, its a continuation of the same kind of arguments that the club and the agent enter into during negotiations when theyre trying to negotiate why they want this or why theyre offering that. Obviously theres a reliance almost solely on numbers and comparable salaries. Nobody is demeaning a player. If you hit .230, you hit .230. It speaks for itself. If you hit .310, it speaks for itself. If you won 15 games, the same.
So its not all that testy. I think theres a lot of people out there, including media people, who think, Oh, you dont want to take this guy to arbitration. Hell never forgive you. I dont buy into that at all. Ive obviously been on the club side and Ive had players that I run into in later years in airports or something like that who come up and they dont hold any animosity, even Barry Bonds. We had Barry twice when he was with Pittsburgh and the club won both cases. And as cantankerous as Barry can be seen by some, when he was still playing with the Giants, hed come into Houston and hed see me and come over and wed laugh.
"Its not that dire a setting. Its just a continuation of the negotiation process being presented to a third party, to a panel of arbitrators. And theyre listening to the same kind of stuff that you were talking about before arbitration and theyre going to make the decision for you.Arbitration figures must be submitted by Tuesday. This year, the Sox have six players -- David Ortiz, Alfredo Aceves, Mike Aviles, Andrew Bailey, Daniel Bard and Jacoby Ellsbury -- eligible for arbitration. Andrew Miller, Matt Albers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Franklin Morales have already agreed to deals, avoiding arbitration.
Arbitration hearings are scheduled to be conducted in St. Petersburg Feb. 1-21. In the hearings, which generally last several hours, each side will present its case to a panel of three arbitrators, with a chance for rebuttals following. Even if a player goes to arbitration, the sides have up until a decision is rendered by the panel to reach a deal.It used to be that about 85 percent of cases that filed would be settled before arbitration, but, Smith said, in recent years the number is even higher, with only about three or four cases going to arbitration. Last year 119 players filed, with just three Hunter Pence, then with the Astros, the Pirates Ross Ohlendorf, and the Angels Jered Weaver going through arbitration. Pence and Ohlendorf won their cases, with Weaver losing his.The reason for that is the stakes are greater, the dollars are greater, and there are greater risks for each party, Smith said. If you go and lose, youre leaving money on the table, so to speak. When I first started this process back in 1974, there were cases where the spread, the difference between the two numbers, was as low as 3,500. I did four Yankee cases in 1974 or 75 and the total of the four cases was about 20,000. Today you get spreads of individual cases weve done recently of 2 million, 3 million. So the stakes are greater and the objective of the whole exercise is to get meaningful numbers on the table for which the parties can continue to negotiate.