Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Heath Bell and Arbitration

Today we announced an agreement on a one-year deal with Heath Bell, thereby avoiding the arbitration process. This was our final arbitration eligible player for this winter, as we've reached agreements with Scott Hairston, Jody Gerut, and Luis Rodriguez in the past few weeks (I say "we" but the bulk of work was really done by Jeff Kingston, our Director of Baseball Operations). The result is that the Padres won't be involved in any of the arbitration cases next month. In fact, we didn't even get to the point of exchanging filing numbers with any of our players.

Arbitration is never a pleasant (or terribly productive) exercise for the parties involved, which is probably why fewer than 10% of the potential cases ever see the hearing room. The system is pretty straight forward:
  1. The Player and the Club submit filing numbers, which are then exchanged a few weeks in advance of a hearing.
  2. The player and the Club may continue to negotiate (in fact, they can strike a deal all the way up to and even AFTER the hearing if it's before the decision).
  3. If no agreement is reached, the parties will go into a hearing in front of a panel of three arbitrators.
  4. Both sides present their case to the panel and follow up with a round of rebuttals and a round of surrebuttals.
  5. The panel deliberates for up to 24 hours before rendering a decision.
  6. The panel has two choices - the Player's number or the Club's numbers - there is no middle ground.
Among other things, these hearings can: cost time, cost money, create animosity, and take both the Player and the Club away from Spring Training. The system is far from perfect, but for all of the aforementioned reasons the current structure does a reasonable job as a deterrent. Regardless, it's nice to go another year without a case. Thanks, Jeff.

Once again, I have to point out that there was something even more important that happened today than the Heath Bell signing. I heard there was something going on in Washington, DC, but my older son wouldn't know anything about that. He only knows that today is his 5th birthday, and he's pretty excited about it. I am, too.


B.T. Charpied said...

Paul -

First, congrats on your son's 5th birthday! It was a pretty special day to have such a birthday.

Nice job by you, Jeff and the club in getting Bell, Hairston and others sealed up prior to arbitration.

While I am sure no Padres fan wanted to see the club and Hoffman part ways, I think they are in excellent hands will Bell.

Question on the bullpen -- do you see any of the slew of young arms you have (specifically Inman and Latos) playing a role in the bullpen late in the season? Or are you focused on making sure they slot into the rotation in late 2009 / 2010?

Thanks. Keep up the excellent work.


WebSoulSurfer said...

Happy Birthday to your son!

Great job getting all the arbitration eligible players signed.

Going to arbitration never seems to work out long term for either the team or the players. Glad you could avoid that.

I have been reading that the team is $4-5 million over the much quoted $40 million budget, but from what I can see and posted in detail on my blog earlier today, the payroll is right at that $40 million figure as of today.

Do the Padres need to make more trades to further reduce payroll for 2009?

Wazzel Sport's Humor said...

That's two birthday's in the same month! Opening Day of Baseball Season must be a very happy time in the DePodesta household ;)

As for the arbitration, a decent example of how nasty arbitration can be between a player and team is AJ Pierzynski and the Giants a few years back.

AJ won his arbitration case, took a lot of heat during the year and the following year the Giants decided to non-tender him, ultimately making the Liriano/Nathan trade that much more painful for Giants fans.

Glad you guys were able to arb all together once again, that's definitely a good thing.

On another note, I definitely have my doubts on the arbiters anyway when Ryan Howard is breaking arbitration records left and right

Paul DePodesta said...

Don't worry - my other son's birthday isn't until April, so everyone gets a break from my birthday announcements for at least a little while.

Travis said...


Any comments on the recent huge arb deal reached between Boston and Papelbon (1 yr., 6.25 million)?

Specifically, do you think the shift (of teams paying closer to market rates for team controller players, in a effort to buy out arb + FA years) will be permanent? Is it all in an effort to know future costs (rather than unknowns, which could be potentially cheaper)?

Thanks for your posting, and for all that you an KT are doing in a (very) difficult situation (esp. recently, before Moores sold the team).

Keepin the Faith,
Travis Leleu

Toothball said...

One thing that I have always wondered; do the players have to be present during the Arbitration hearings, or can they just be represented by their agent?

If they do not have to appear, does it then hurt their case?

I say this because, if I were a player, while I would want to win my case, I would not want to be there to have to listen to my team point out all my flaws about how I am not worth paying extra money for.

I think it would be easier to accept the decision, either way, if I was not there to hear it all, but just with my agent fighting on my behalf.

SDPads_1 said...

First off Happy B-day to both the little Depo's. It's nice that you planned their births in the off-season haha....although as the saying goes for you guys there is no off-season right?

Second congrats on another season without going to arbitration. 2 in the past 11 years ain't so bad (Joey Hamilton '98 & Todd Walker in '07).

WebsoulSurfer I believe you are slightly off because the major league minimum is 400,000 not 390,000 this year. Plus Gerut is signed for 1.1775 million not 1.775 million.

One last thing I'd like to bring up is just because a team is at say 45 million with a 40 million budget they have the whole season to get that number down....correct? The media is making it sound like everyone gets their entire salary on opening day. Maybe a certain player making 9 million or so next year might be dealt mid-season saving the team roughly 4.5-5 million and possibly bringing that team to the 40 million budget.

Unknown said...


First Happy birthday to your son. Even without a picture I'm sure he's great

I guess that arbitration is not only negative. So as an organization, do you have a strategy when to go to arbitration and when to take all means to avoid it?
If you go to arbitration, how do you plan it?

Jason @ IIATMS said...

Thanks for the explanation, Paul.

And enjoy #5. It's a great age.

My oldest (#9 coming fast) usually gets to celebrate on/around Opening Day. We both love that. He's a huge Peavy fan (his name is Jake, too, and born on 4/4 so every number he requests is #44).

Jason said...

I've often wondered how an arbitration panel decides which number to accept. What kind of arguments does each side set forth? Obviously, I'd expect statistics to be a part of each argument, but do the panelists really understand which statistics matter or are they likely to be swayed by a player's arguments about how many RBIs or wins he accumulated (or, even better, his "grit")?

Jason said...

And right after I ask that question, I go to JC Bradbury's blog and see him post the criteria for determining a player's worth in arbitration.

Still seems a little funky to me. Part ii of the inadmissable elements ("Press comments, testimonials or similar material bearing on the performance of either the Player or the Club") seems to at least be partially in conflict with the "special qualities of leadership and public appeal" mentioned in the first sentence of the entry.

Paul DePodesta said...


That's a great question about the pen. The answer is: I don't know. We're going to have to see how those guys are others progress. Fortunately, both Inman and Latos will be in their first Major League spring training, so the exposure should help them in their development.

Paul DePodesta said...


There is no doubt that the top tier players continue to push the envelope every year. I don't see that changing. How this year's soft free agent market will affect the process will be interesting to follow.

Paul DePodesta said...


Talk about another good deterrent - yes, players must be present.

Didi Tee said...

Happy birthday to both the little ones, Paul. Thank you for your good work.

I have a question regarding arbitration. If a player had gotten into an off-the-field incident prior to decision (i.e. an injury) could the arbitrators take that into account when deciding?

Wazzel Sport's Humor said...

Heath Bell's line about avoiding arbitration is unbeatable:

"I don't want to go to arbitration because I hear you have to dress up, and I hate dressing up”

Steve24 said...


Have you seen the minor league rankings put out by Keith Law with scouts inc?


Pads are listed at 19. I'd like to know how much that was impacted by the long term international prospects signed in '08 (I doubt very much after rereading his intro as those players probably wouldn't reach the big league club before 2012 when they'd be 20-21).

Any news on those boys and where they'll be in '09?

I'd also like to point out that of the top 10 teams, 5 by my count (Texas, Oakland, Atlanta, Cleveland & Florida) all got helped by trading superstars to restock the system.

In your experience, if you were a team in the selling mode, is it better to sell in the offseason or before the deadline?

How does the proximity of the amateur draft impact your answer?

More teams in the offseason in the buying mode, but at the deadline some teams are desperate to make that playoff push.

Teixiera has been traded twice, both times mid-season.

Cleveland traded CC mid year.

Florida and Oakland seem to do more of their trading in the offseason but Beane shipped out a few pitchers before last years deadline (Harden & Blanton).

Finally, whats the over under that we can get the Pads to dig up a clip of you starring in "Homicide, Life on the streets" as the Padres version of a Rally Monkey/Kevin Millar-Born in the USA battle cry?

Hope you were rocking a Dan Patrick porn stache.

B.T. Charpied said...

I think teams such as the Padres get a raw deal when looking at organizational rankings (mind you, I'm not a Padres fan, but do follow the team).

The reason being is that most "experts" lean heavily on organizations that go for huge ceiling / low floor players in hopes of finding the next elite superstar.

But there is something to be said for an Organization like the Padres that have a bunch of solid young players that will surely contribute in the majors. Too often was "league average" and "above league average" prospects get overlooked.

Kyle Blanks, Wade LeBlanc, Matt Latos, Matt Antonelli, Chad Huffman, Will Inman, etc. Will any of these guys be categorized as "elite?" It is a pretty safe bet that they won't. But they will be damn fine ball players and will certainly be contributors to the Padres.

There is something to say for that...and too often experts remain silent when analyzing those teams.