Thursday, January 13, 2011

A new approach to negotiating?

For years, the Jays took their streak of not busting their players' balls in arbitration hearings as a symbol of their enlightened virtue. And being that we're all a bunch of overly polite Canadians, we probably liked it that way. Those are our guys, so why do we want to be something less than accommodating to them?

(And pause now to link to Jeremy Sandler's NatPost piece from late last night which kicked off this whole line of thinking. Lest you think we have an idea of our own.)

With the deadline for avoiding hearings creeping up fast, and the Jays still holding the line on an MLB-high nine players, it seems to us that the front office has a different view on how to approach the process, and how nice is too nice. (Now, cue all of the signings avoiding the arb process dropping on one day. Boom!)

If the Jays front office does indeed continue to be slightly unconventional in their approach (and the Miguel Olivo deal certainly qualifies as that), then maybe there's something to taking a new path to purchasing the players' services.

Certainly, on the top end, the Jays are faced with an unprecedented issue with José Bautista's contract for next year. His otherworldly 2010 campaign may well force the Jays into a hearing, because really, how the hell do you square away the rest of his career with that one season?

The really interesting question is whether if the team will go to arbitration with some of the more marginal cases, and if so, what do they see as the advantage to such an approach? Niceness aside, is there really any advantage to the team staying away from the arbitration hearing? And what's to be gained by the team by going this route?

The past approach to arbitration seemed to have been one of ensuring that the players were appeased and that a few hundred thousand bucks here or there would suffice to ballast the boat. But a $100K here and $200K there, and pretty soon, you're talking real money. The sort of money that the Jays may be more interested in spending on the multitude of draft picks coming this June rather than their seventh bullpen arm and fourth outfielder.

Moreover, this front office seems to be the sort who wouldn't avoid the arbitrator's room if they thought that they could win. Given the amount of time and resources that have been dedicated to the knowledge and reconnaissance aspects of running the Jays over the past 16 months, we would at least imagine that they would know which cases they could go in and win, and from which awards they might need to walk away.

We're not wanting to present this like we know what the team (or the very polite and kindly Alex Anthopoulos) is thinking, but we wouldn't be opposed to the team taking an approach to this process that is something other than what the orthodoxy would suggest they adhere to, if only to see what the result looks like.


Ty said...

There's definitely something to be said for avoiding the arbitration hearing if possible. It might cost more, but considering, say, Bautista's case: if the Jays are seriously thinking about signing him long-term and maybe hoping for a bit of a hometown discount, I'd imagine that having to sit in a room with him and explain to an arbitrator why he sucks and doesn't deserve the money he's asking for would be a poor way to get there.

William J. Tasker said...

Ty brings up a good point on Bautista. But on the rest, I agree with you, Tao, on your take on things.

The Canadian polite thing cracked me right up though. Still laughing...

GCM1979 said...

you guys do realize this is Bautista's last year in Toronto right? Perfect reason to fight tooth and nail with him to save a few bucks.
I'm surprised they haven't traded him yet.
No offence to Bautista, but he already feels he's worth a long term contract, one AA isn't willing to dish out to Bautista, meaning he is gonzo after this season, either as a type A free agent, or in a trade.

Tao of Stieb said...

Yeah, it's pretty much coming clear that this is likely JoBau's last year here.

I would have thought a two-year, $20 million deal might have worked to keep him in the fold, but I haven't really heard anything about what's been offered and what he wants.

Of course, with the new regime, silence often portends action, seeing as how quiet they've managed to keep everything.

Peter DeMarco said...

I think Bautista see's the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and wants to see what he can get, and the only way he would accept a deal now is if it was a long term, which the Jays aren't and shouldn't be prepared to offer based on one season.

I've heard nothing but negative things about the arbitration process from the players point of view. Even if they win their case, the player does not get over what was said in the process.

nelly said...

there are numerous problems in going to arbitration with a player... Ty touched on the most obvious one so i'll avoid it...

another major issue is that it costs serious dough to carry a case to it's conclusion... attorney's fees + it preoccupies members of the front office who could be otherwise using their time some (any) more productive way. (AA cited this as a reason for not negotiating beyond the deadline to exchange figues... agents routine will drag their feet and the club has to prepare as if the case will actually be heard)

if you figure that you'll win 50% of the hearings then why not settle all the cases and save yourself the other costs associated with the hearings? said...

It won't actually have success, I consider this way.