On Tuesday, January 17 at noon Eastern time, arbitration filing amounts were exchanged between Major League Baseball clubs and eligible players that could not yet come to terms on 2012 contracts.
This is applicable to the roughly 100 players with between less than three years and six years of major league service time without contracts for the upcoming 2012 season. The St. Louis Cardinals had two of these in pitchers Kyle McClellan and Jason Motte.
A couple of hours after the deadline, the Cardinals announced a one-year deal with McClellan. The deal is reportedly for $2.5 million. The amounts exchanged for Motte were $2.4 million from the player and $1.5 million from the team.
In a nutshell, the process is designed to encourage both sides to come to terms prior to a February arbitration hearing. If necessary at that time, a team of arbiters will hear arguments from player and club and decide on one of the two submitted amounts as the player’s 2012 salary - nothing in between.
Typically, the team will submit a lower amount and the player will offer a higher amount. Many times they settle around the midpoint. With a month until any hearing, there is plenty of time remaining to get a deal done. The last time the Cardinals and one of their players actually had a case heard was in 1999, though they came close several times since.
Both Cardinals players created an interesting dilemma in setting salary amounts.
Motte comes into camp as the team’s closer, having taken the job late in August and carrying it through the World Series. Yet he lacks the track record to be paid as much as more accomplished closers such as Pittsburgh’s Joel Hanrahan, who settled Monday for $4.1 million. Hanrahan has one more year of service time than Motte, who is in his first year of eligibility.
As of this past weekend, neither player seemed concerned about where the process stands currently.
“I am sure there are discussions going on, but my agent probably knows a little better than I. I will give you his number if you want to call him,” Motte joked. “Mo (Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak) would probably know. There are discussions but my job is to do it on the field. That is why I have an agent - to handle the stuff off the field.”
Mozeliak's simple reply to my query: "We're trying."
McClellan stepped in as a starter for the first half of the 2011 season. The right-hander performed well early on before dropping off considerably to the point he was not selected to pitch in much of the post-season.
This is McClellan’s second arbitration-eligible year. One year ago, he came to terms with the team just after the conclusion of Winter Warm-Up, but Mozeliak sounded less optimistic this past weekend that it would close as quickly this year.
I asked McClellan on Monday if he had any feeling how long it might be until his contract situation is resolved.
“No,” he replied. “It can go… (pause) whenever the deadlines are. I don’t even know what they are. From what I understand, we have plenty of time to get it done.”
Turns out that both Mozeliak and McClellan were overly cautious or it came together very quickly once the dollars from each side were disclosed.
Before signing his December extension, Skip Schumaker was also arbitration-eligible. Admitting he was “not trying to break the bank,” the second baseman-outfielder was most interested in remaining a Cardinal and settled relatively quickly on a two-year, $3 million deal covering this season and next.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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