Do the Pittsburgh Pirates need to avoid arbitration?
The early weeks of January saw a flurry of deals for the Pittsburgh Pirates to avoid arbitration. When the dust settled, three names remained: Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Vance Worley. As of this writing, all three cases seem to be headed to arbitration. For a quick refresher on the process, both the player and the team will present their cases and their requested salaries for 2015 to a panel of arbitrators hired by MLB to judge on these disputes. The arbitrators then set the salary for that player, which both he and the team are bound by. For players, it can be a humbling process. Their faults as seen by an organization are laid out for everyone to see. For the organization, it can have a damaging effect on ongoing extension negotiations with a player, especially if the sides are far apart in talks, as appears to be the case with Neil Walker.
But how important is it really for the Pittsburgh Pirates to avoid arbitration with the trio listed above? Let’s look at it on a player by player basis
For Vance Worley, I really see no need for the Pirates to try to avoid arbitration with the latest Ray Searage Rejuvenated Special. You look at The Vanimal and see a sub-3 ERA, and great WHIP to go along with an improving walk rate. He will get a raise, but not a substantial one given his history. Looking forward, he is just not in the Pirates long-term plans in any conceivable way. With the organization eagerly awaiting Nick Kingham and Jameson Taillon, among others, don’t get too attached to the bespectacled one. The Pirates can take the hit on this one.
Seemingly-clued in Mike Perchick gave us this figure regarding Pedro Alvarez:
It seems silly to me that the Bucs or Pedro would quibble over $500K. But so it is, and I for one think the Pirates should have avoided arbitration for El Toro altogether. With Pedro’s commitment already coming into question, with a position change and a dumpster fire of a season hanging over his head, putting a $500,000 investment into his mental state would not have been a bad idea. One thing i think is being swept under the rug is that the Pirates were likely trying to low-ball Pedro in hopes to increase his trade value for the 2015 trade deadline. Could be a sneaky move by Neal if it works in his favor.
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The mere mention of Neil Walker‘s contract situation is enough to send most Pittsburgh Pirates fans lunging for their nearest church to send their prayers up that The Pittsburgh Kid will remain a Pirate in perpetuity. As our own Matt Bower stated, it is well-known that Walker is a huge risk both financially and on the field due to health issues. Barring a position change to 1st base, would anyone feel comfortable signing this guy to a long-term deal right now at this very moment? Walker requested $9 million, the Pirates countered at $8 million. Not that far of a gap, but I think the Pirates can go one of two ways here. If they have designs on finally extending Walker, then they should avoid arbitration and use some of that “payroll flexibility” received from the Travis Snider trade and give Walker what he wants. A small price to pay for a token of good faith in already tension-filled extension talks. If they see the writing on the wall and look at Neil as a stopgap until Alen Hanson is ready, then they should fight it tooth and nail and save money where they can. Only Neal Huntington knows the answer.
Arbitration is a frustrating process for everyone, fans, management, and players alike. Pirate fans can only hope that these small battles can lead to a bigger victory down the road.