Today is the day where Addison Reed could become the first Diamondbacks' player since 2001 to attend an arbitration hearing. He's one of two from Arizona who have yet to come to agreement on a contract for 2015, with Mark Trumbo also currently scheduled for later in the month. When the two sides filed, the team offered Reed $4.7 million, and he countered at $5.6 million. If there is a hearing, the panel of three arbitrators will choose one or other of the numbers; they cannot pick a mid-point.
The arbitration process
The actual hearing itself is simple: both players and the team will have a professional labor lawyer speaking on their behalf. According to Baseball Prospectus [which also goes into more detail about things like the selection of arbitrators than you probably want to know], "Each side gets one hour to present its case. There is a short recess and then each side gets 30 minutes to rebut the other side's case and 30 minutes to present their summation." There may then be a final round of brief presentations by both sides, responding only to issues raised during the other's rebuttal.
Within 24 hours, the panel will come to their decision, and then submit a bare-bones conclusion, picking one side's figure or the other, and offering no further explanation, whether it was unanimous or a majority decision, etc.
What can and can't be included
The Collective Bargaining Agreement lays out exactly what can be offered in support of each side's case, and what is not permissible. The main factors are "the quality of the Player's contribution to his Club during the past season (including but not limited to his overall performance, special qualities of leadership and public appeal), the length and consistency of his career contribution, the record of the Player's past compensation, comparative baseball salaries, the existence of any physical or mental defects on the part of the Player, and the recent performance record of the Club including but not limited to its League standing and attendance as an indication of public acceptance."
Not admissible include things such as: "The financial position of the Player and the Club; press comments, testimonials or similar material bearing on the performance of either the Player or the Club; offers made by either Player or Club prior to arbitration; the cost to the parties of their representatives, attorneys, etc.; and salaries in other sports or occupations." I vaguely recall, but can't find an immediate source for, that the previous two years of performance are eligible to be discussed.
What this means for Addison Reed
The arbitrators are not "baseball people", so it's unlikely advanced metrics such as WAR, FIP, etc. will come into play - there's general agreement that they're old-school, and so basic numbers like ERA and Saves are likely more important. However, pretty much any way you choose to slice things, it's clear that Reed did not have as good a season in 2014, as he did the previous year. Though even if the club's figure wins, he's still in line for a big bump from the close to league minimum salary of $538,500 he earned last season.
Going to arbitration is something that is generally avoided: there were only three hearings last year (clubs won two of these) and none at all in 2013. This is because the hearing basically consists of the team spending the afternoon telling a player it doesn't think he's worth as much as he thinks. This is unlikely to have a positive impact on their future relationship, shall we say, and may potentially decrease the changes of a future extension. However, in the case of Reed, that shouldn't be an issue: he's under club control through the end of 2017 regardless, and I can't see us seeking to extend him beyond that.
So, if you were the arbitrator, on which side of the fence would you come down?