Brandon Belt and the Giants Settle Arbitration Case
The San Francisco Giants settled Brandon Belt‘s pending arbitration case for $6.2 million for the 2016 season. Belt had asked for $7.5 million in arbitration, the Giants had countered with $5.3 million, so the settlement can be seen as something of a win for the team, since the final amount was $200,000 less than the mid-point.
As a fan, I’m glad the parties settled. The Giants like Belt, and I have little doubt but that Belt enjoys playing for the Giants. I think Belt is reasonably worth the $7.5 million he and his agents asked for, but the arbitration system wasn’t likely to take into account fully his 1B defense or the fact that AT&T Park is an extremely tough home park for a left-handed hitter with Belt’s power level.
mlbtraderumors.com predicted that Belt would get the $6.2 million he will ultimately receive, and it’s quite possible that this prediction factored into the settlement, although I also think that Belt and the Giants both wanted an agreement that saved enough face all the way around.
As I like to say, Belt won’t be going to bed hungry any time soon, even if he accepted $200K less than the mid-point. I’d like to see the Giants sign Belt to a longer term deal, but the team may feel like they want to see another good season from Brandon after having been hurt in 2014. This may back-fire on the Gints, because if Belt performs well in 2016, he will cost the team a lot more for a longer term deal than he would have had they given him the multi-year deal this off-season, not least of all because Giants fans will want the team to lock in Belt as they did the other Brandon.
The file-and-trial teams, i.e., those teams that refuse to negotiate a one-year contract after arbitration figures are exchanged, have not been having a good off-season. Players are ahead 3-1 in the arbitration decisions that have been rendered to date, and the owners lone win saved the team only $250,000.
The baloney you hear reported on behalf of teams is that some teams feel the reason for the file-and-trial position is the need to hold the line on arbitration amounts because compromises now become precedents for future years’ arbitration cases. That reasoning only works if teams win the vast majority of arbitration decisions. If the players win a majority of the decisions, as they have so far this year, then the clearly higher amounts awarded become the future precedents teams are allegedly trying to avoid.
I can understand the idea that the file-and-trial teams think that by taking this position as a negotiating tactic, more players will elect to settle for smaller amounts than risk going to trial. However, I don’t think it’s a wise or ultimately successful negotiating strategy, because it gives the team fewer rather than more options.
Agents representing players playing for file-and-trial teams will simply adjust slightly downward the player’s ask when arbitration figures are exchanged, since they know the team won’t negotiate a one-year deal after the exchange. That means the player has a better chance of winning the arbitration hearing and thus getting a better contract ultimately than from a compromise contract after a higher ask.
Some trial-and-file teams like the Blue Jays with Josh Donaldson get around their dumb position by entering into a two-year contract with the player. I don’t see how the team is better off doing so.
Donaldson will receive $11.65 million in 2016, which is more than the mid-point of the arbitration figures exchanged, and $17 million in 2017, which is a bargain for the Jays only if Donaldson has another MVP-caliber season in 2016, no sure thing simply as a matter of the law of averages. Meanwhile, the Jays don’t get any of Donaldson’s free agent seasons.
Given Donaldson’s age, the deal makes a certain amount of sense for the Jays. However, the team sure better hope Donaldson stays healthy in 2016 and 2017.