Why Did Garrett Jones Go to Arbitration?

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Garrett Jones went to an arbitration hearing today, which was a bit of a surprise considering the two sides were just $250 K apart. Jones filed for a $2.5 M salary as a Super Two player, while the Pirates filed for $2.25 M. The close proximity of the salaries raises the question: why didn’t the two sides come to a deal in the middle?

The situation really comes down to risk. There’s very little involved for either side if they go to arbitration and lose, as opposed to finding the middle ground. Jones is guaranteed at least $2.25 M. The Pirates can pay no more than $2.5 M. That’s the worst case scenario for each side. Rather than playing it safe and going for the middle ground, it looks like the two sides decided to take the risk.

I think we can assume that both sides feel comfortable with the number they submitted. They submitted their respective numbers because they each feel that is what Jones is worth. So if it comes down to an arbitration hearing, each side is going in with the expectation that their figure is correct. And it’s not like there’s an obvious choice here, since the figures are so close together.

If you submitted a figure, and you believed in that figure, why would you agree to meet the other party in the middle when you believe you’ve got a shot at getting the full amount?

The worst case for the Pirates is that they give up an extra $250 K over their figure, instead of an extra $125 K if they meet in the middle. The worst case for Jones is that he makes $250 K less than his figure, rather than $125 K less if he meets in the middle. You could look at the figures and say “it’s not a lot of money compared to the overall contract, so why worry about the extra $125 K?” But since it isn’t a lot of money compared to the overall contract, why not risk that small amount to try and get a little more, or pay a little less?

Obviously that’s what the Pirates and Jones did. Rather than meet in the middle, Jones went for the full $2.5 M, and the Pirates went for their original figure. It’s a gamble for either side, but it’s not as high risk as last year’s hearing between Ross Ohlendorf and the Pirates, which was separated by $600 K. I don’t think either side will miss the extra $250 K, and I don’t think there was any huge benefit to either side in accepting the $125 K security that the mid-point provided.

MLB Trade Rumors has a good breakdown of the arbitration case, looking at comparable players and what each side is probably basing their arguments on. I guess we’ll see tomorrow who won the gamble. And it looks like Casey McGehee could be heading the same route next week.

Other Notes

**The 2012 Annual is in the final stages of production. The book should start shipping late next week, and if an A.J. Burnett trade is completed this weekend, he will be included. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site. Buy it with the 2012 Prospect Guide and get a discounted combo rate. If you’ve already bought the Prospect Guide, there’s a code on page 204 for $5 off the Annual.

Matt Bandi and Kevin Creagh wrote the book. I scanned through the book today as I started my proofreading and editing process. The content looks great, with a lot of informative features such as 2012 WAR and wOBA projections, player profiles on every player invited to major league Spring Training, Pitch F/X breakdowns on the current starting rotation and Joel Hanrahan, a look at all of the other NL Central teams, and a 20+ page feature on the early 1990’s Pittsburgh Pirates. The book will end up around 175 pages, and is a great resource for following the major league team this year.

**Looks like the Pirates made another minor signing, adding indy player David Valesente. I like this a little more than the normal minor league signings. Odds are that Valesente won’t amount to much, since he turns 24 this year and will likely play in high-A. But he did put up decent numbers in indy ball last year, he’s relatively young, and he’s not exactly blocking anyone at third base.

**The 2012 Draft Prospect Trackers went up today. I took suggestions on some other players to add. I’ll probably put a few more up by the end of the weekend, so feel free to suggest a player.

**Kevin Creagh took another look at the value of TV deals in baseball. The huge deals signed by the Rangers, Angels, and soon the Dodgers, are driving a bigger wedge between big market teams and small market teams. It makes you realize something. You never really hear about TV contracts for NFL teams. In fact, I don’t think there are any local deals. The league negotiates national deals, and all of the teams split the contracts evenly. Imagine how things in the NFL would be if teams didn’t split the TV revenue equally. Actually, you probably don’t have to imagine that. You just have to look at Major League Baseball.

**If you follow the site through an RSS feed, I made a change today to combine all of the different areas of the site in to one feed. That feed can be found on the top of the page by clicking the RSS button, or by going here. The new feed includes all of the content on the main site, plus all of the blog posts, and all of the new player pages. And it’s all on one feed.

**I’m still trying to come up with a name for this nightly feature. I saw a good suggestion yesterday: “First Pitch”. To be honest, I’m kind of leaning towards that. Credit would go to Ryan Quinn, who suggested it in the comments.


  • Couple comments –
    1.  Matt Bandi is the primary writer on the Annual.  I just contributed some things here and there.  He deserves the lion share of credit on it (it’s a great piece of work, Matt).

    2.  The Jones and McGehee cases are strange.  I understand what you’re saying Tim, but it’s just silly on both players.  With Jones, he is not part of your long-term solution so why worry about future arbitration increases for a player that will probably not be here in 2013 and super-close-to-definite not here in 2014?  With McGehee, why engender bad feelings right off the bat with your new acquistion?

    If it was $1M dollars difference, I could see it.  I could probably also agree with $500K.  But $250K?  No way.  That’s budget dust to any team, even the Pirates.