Show Me The Money

As the time for Spring Training to begin comes closer, the first steps toward getting that new season roster in place began this week.  For those players who have 3 years of service time (less than three but more than two for a small minority) but have not yet reached the 6 years needed for free agency, their salaries will be determined by arbitration.  Yesterday at noon CT was the deadline for players and teams to submit salary numbers for the purpose of a possible arbitration of those players’ 2015 salaries.   For most, this process ends with a mutually agreeable deal being worked out between the parties before any arbitration takes place. For a few, an adversarial hearing before an arbitrator will determine what that player will be paid.  Most teams and players prefer to avoid this part of the process, because it can be unpleasant and contentious.  In a few rare cases it has resulted in hard feelings between player and club.  This is why both sides work very diligently in trying to avoid this outcome.

Leading into this week, the Cardinals had four players who were eligible for arbitration.  Those players were Lance Lynn, Tony Cruz, Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay.  Lynn and Cruz were first time arbitration eligible; Bourjos and Jay are in their second year of this process.  By the deadline yesterday, all but Jon Jay had worked out a deal to avoid the hearing.  As of this writing, Jay does not have a deal, but salary numbers have been submitted.  The passing of the deadline does not mean that a deal cannot still be accomplished; the sides can reach a mutually acceptable deal anytime before the arbitration hearing occurs.  The Cardinals have not had a case go to the arbitrator since 1999, so it is very unlikely that a deal for Jay will not be reached.

The following is a synopsis of the status of the four players:

 

Lance Lynn—Starting pitcher, 3.119 years of service time.

On Thursday, the Cardinals and Lynn reached an agreement for a 3 year, 22 million dollar deal (23.5 M with incentives).  This deal covers all 3 of Lynn’s arbitration years.  There was some surprise that the deal did not go beyond 3 years, it was expected that at least one of Lynn’s free agent years would be bought as well, perhaps with an option.  That did not happen, but the deal is still reasonable and team friendly.  Extending Lynn was a wise move for the Cardinals, given the uncertainty of the future for the rotation.  Lynn has been a solid, durable starter for the Cardinals, so far virtually injury free, and providing plenty of innings for the club.  This deal will insure cost certainty for the Cardinals, something that is welcome in a time of fluctuating payroll. I like the deal very much for the Cardinals.

Tony Cruz—-Catcher, 3.105 years of service time.

Cruz is the Cardinals back up catcher.  Being the back up to Yadier Molina is like being the Maytag Repairman.  Kudos to Cruz for being the sacrificial lamb.  Cruz doesn’t get much love from the Cardinal faithful, but from all accounts he is much liked and respected by his teammates and his manager.  Cruz won’t wow you; he can’t hit much and his defense, though above league average, pales in the blinding light of Molina’s stardom.  Many fans wish the Cardinals had a better back up than Cruz (admittedly I have professed those sentiments myself).  The team is sticking with Cruz, however, for the time being.  Cruz and the Cardinals settled on a salary of $775,000, a modest increase for Cruz over last season.

Peter Bourjos—Center field, 4.062 years of service time.

Similarly to Tony Cruz, Bourjos, in his second year with the Cardinals, spent last season as Jon Jay’s unloved stepbrother, playing around 650 innings in center field.  Bourjos got much more playing time than Cruz,  and unlike Cruz, is talented enough to deserve more.  Whether he will get it remains to be seen, as Jon Jay is again slated to be the starting center fielder.  Bourjos could be a starter on almost any other team, but his position with the Cardinals is murky. Both a better defender and a better base runner than Jay,  Bourjos’ year with the bat was limited by playing time and a nagging hip injury that was corrected this off season with surgery.  Now that he enters 2015 healthy, Bourjos has an opportunity to show what he can do at the plate.

Bourjos and the Cardinals agreed on Thursday to a salary of 1.65 million for 2015.  This is a bargain for someone with Bourjos’ talent; a good 2015 season will help him for next season.

Jon Jay—Center field, 4.134 years of service time.

Jay had a good year with the bat in 2014, though it is a bat with no power.  Jay hit .303/.372/.378, with 16 doubles, 3 triples and 3 HRs.  Jay is an average defender at center field, but he is limited by a very poor arm. Jay also played some time in both left field and right field last season.  Jay is a high OBP, high BABIP offensive player; though he hits 80% singles, he gets on base at a high rate, which is very valuable.  Jay also has a propensity to get hit by pitches, a career high 20 times in 2014, leading the NL  last season in HBP.

The Cardinals and Jay were unable to reach agreement by the deadline.  The Cardinals submitted a salary figure of 4.1 million, an increase of $850,000 over his 2014 salary of 3.25 million.  Jay submitted a salary figure of 5 million.  It is likely that the parties will reach agreement somewhere near the midpoint at 4.5 million.  In the unlikely event that the matter reaches an arbitration hearing, that will take place sometime in February.

 

That is your recap of this week’s arbitration news.   Nothing earth shattering or melodramatic, just business as usual for the Cardinals.

It is 32 days until pitchers and catchers report.

 

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

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