D-backs Arbitration: What's Left?

Christian Petersen

Six Diamondbacks players were among the 133 who filed for arbitration this year - however, four have already signed with Arizona for the season. Let's take a look at what they will or might earn in 2013.

The six in question were Chris Johnson, Ian Kennedy, Gerardo Parra, Cliff Pennington, Tony Sipp and Brad Ziegler. All are going through the process for the first time, except for Ziegler. He's in his third year, having agreed with the Diamondbacks on a one-season deal worth just shy of $1.8 million last season, and been a Super Two the year before with Oakland. History suggests consensual agreements will happen to all our players, because Arizona hasn't seen the inside of an actual arbitration hearing since 2001, for Damian Miller. Only four teams have longer current streaks than our 11-year run without a face-off (we're tied with the Braves, White Sox and Tigers):

  • Cleveland - last hearing, 1991, Greg Swindell + Jerry Browne
  • St. Louis - 1999, Darren Oliver
  • Texas - 2000, Lee Stevens
  • Toronto - 1997, Bill Risley

If you're interested in the details of how the system works, we covered that in January 2011, and not much has changed since. This year, the timetable has teams and players exchanging figures until earlier today, and any hearings necessary will be scheduled from Feb 4th through the 20th. However, negotiations can go on all the way up to the literal door of the arbitration chamber, as happened with Miguel Montero last season. Kevin Towers said earlier this month that the process had started, but wasn't necessarily expecting any quick resolutions: "Those things usually come down to the wire."

That wasn't the case for Johnson, Kennedy, Sipp and Ziegler, who all agreed to one-year contracts covering the 2013 season this week. Let's take a look at what has transpired so far, in a busy week of wheeling and dealing, and what's left to settle.

Chris Johnson (service time 2 years, 144 days)

MLB Trade Rumors estimated salary: $2.2 million. Actual salary: $2.2875 million.

Ian Kennedy (3.124)

MLB Trade Rumors estimated salary: $4.2 million. Actual salary: $4.265 million.

Gerardo Parra (3.145)

Parra just missed out by a few days on hitting Super Two status last year, so hits his first shot at arbitration a year removed from his breakout season. That will certainly save the Diamondbacks some cash, not just because of the additional year, but also because Parra took a step back in 2012. He didn't see as much playing time, starting 84 games compared to 111 the previous campaign, his OPS+ dropped twenty points, from 113 to 93, and of course, there was no Gold Glove. Those will still factor in to the eventual amount, but Parra would get more if 2011 and 2012 had been swapped. MLB Trade Rumors estimated salary: $2.1 million.

Subsequent to the above paragraph, details of the figures files by Parra and the club have come out, as follows.

The mid-point is $2.4 million, and I suspect we will probably see something close to that. There's a certain "moral victory" to be had for whichever side gets to settle closer to their prior figure, even if it's only a buck. Last year, first-year arbitration outfielders earned from $865K (Mitch Maier) to $2.8 million (Brett Gardner), so Parra seems to be aiming towards the top of the range. A good comp might be... Yuck, Tony Plush himself, Nyjer Morgan, who had 461 games and a 94 OPS+, compared to Parra's 527 games and 93 OPS+. Morgan had more bWAR (6.5 to 4.8) and the better pre-arb season before signing at $2.35 million, but Parra does have that trophy on his mantelpiece...

Cliff Pennington (3.114)

Finding decent comps for Pennington is hard, since only three shortstops filed for arbitration last season. Pennington would seem to be better than Jed Lowrie and Paul Janish, but not as good as Elvis Andrus, based upon playing-time and bWAR posted in their pre-arbitration careers. Here's what that shows, along with the 2012 salary for each man:

Player bWAR Games 2012 Salary
Paul Janish 0.9 324 $850,000
Jed Lowrie 2.5 256 $1,150,000
Elvis Andrus 8.2 443 $2,375,000
Cliff Pennington 5.6 525 ???

Andrus's deal was actually part of a longer extension; at arbitration, he filled for $3.6m, the club countering at $2.65m. However, in terms of WAR per playing time, Pennigton is closer to Jed than Elvis, though should get a decent bump above the former due to significantly higher playing time. MLB Trade Rumors estimated salary: $2.1 million.

There was a much bigger gap between expectations on both sides here, Pennington putting in for $2.8 million, and the club countering a whole million dollars lower, at $1.8 million, which would appear to imply there'll be no quick settlement here. That 56% difference is among the largest gaps of all the players to file, trailing just David Freese ($3.75m vs. $2.4m), Chris Heisey ($1.65m vs $1.05m) and Darren O'Day, who leads all players with a valuation of his worth 78% higher than his team, at $3.2 million compared to $1.8 million. Maybe the long arbitration-free streak for the Diamondbacks could be coming to an end?

Tony Sipp (3.138)

MLB Trade Rumors estimated salary: $1 million. Actual salary: $1.275 million

Brad Ziegler (4.122)

MLB Trade Rumors estimated salary: $2.4 million. Actual salary: $3.15 million.

Elsewhere, there was just as much a flurry of activity, led by Hunter Pence settling with the Giants for $13.8 million this year. It proved quite an expensive day for San Francisco , as they also agreed to an $8 million deal with Buster Posey for his first year at non-minimum wage. That was quite an unusual situation, as there aren't many cases where a Rookie of the Year wins the MVP award just before arbitration. Ryan Howard comes to mind: he earned $10 million in similar circumstances, which seems to support the theory - as we see with Chris Johnson - that homers are seen as more "valuable".

Also of interest, David Price, who was mentioned as a first-year comp for Ian Kennedy, will get just over ten million from the Rays this year, in his second year. That might be the sort of money IPK can look forward to... well, if he gets 20 wins and takes home the Cy Young award in 2013, anyway. Hopefully he will indeed deserve a nice increase, at the very least. Among those still negotiating, the biggest deal is also in the NL West, where Chase Headley is looking for an eight-figure payout from the Padres, at $10.3 million, while the team are thinking more than three million lower, at just over seven.

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