Saturday, January 14, 2017

The arbitration guys

Friday was the deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange numbers, and as usual it resulted in a downpour of agreements.

The Twins had four arbitration-eligible players -- starting pitchers Kyle Gibson and Hector Santiago and relievers Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Pressly -- and reached agreement with all four.

These deals matter to the players and the front offices. For we fans on the outside, Ryan Pressly's salary is (or should be) a minor detail. Barring trade or injury, he's going to be in the Minnesota bullpen on Opening Day, and whether he gets paid $1.1 million (projected salary) or $1.175 million (reported agreement) won't change that. (An extra $75,000 sounds nice to me, but it's a rounding error in terms of the Twins payroll.)

The arbitration process has been around for decades. I'm old, and I can barely remember the era of the spring training holdout. For a good part of that time, front-office types regularly complained that arbitration unreasonably boosts player pay. Today, I think, it is widely recognized that players in the arbitration process are having their salaries depressed, at least compared to what they would be paid as free agents.

If that weren't the case, teams would be letting more of them go to free agency. But if the Twins nontendered Gibson, somebody would certainly offer him more than the $2.9 million he got in Friday's agreement. Santiago's $8 million is more debatable.

And then there's Trevor Plouffe, nontendered by the Twins early this offseason and recently signed by Oakland. Had he gone through the arbitration process, he probably would have gotten something in the vicinity of $9 million in 2017. Instead, he's apparently to get about 60 percent of that -- which would be very good coin for me, to be sure. That's what his services are deemed worth by a true open market.

But few arbitration-eligibles are turned loose, which tells us that they are still being underpaid.

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