Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bell, Harang Offered Arbitration

First, a bit of self-promotion.  I'm providing a couple of articles for the Baseball Digest website on the Padres.  The first went up on the site Tuesday, and yes - it's yet another 2011 season review.  If you have some time I hope you surf over there and take a read.  You can link to it from here

Baseball Digest is the oldest baseball magazine in the US, currently published 6 times a year.  They are trying to expand their on-line presence, which includes content different from what appears in the magazine.  Thanks in advance for reading.

Back to the Padres.  Since the news came out a week ago, on the day before Thanksgiving, I missed it, but it included some of the news we've been waiting for.  San Diego offered arbitration to Heath Bell and Aaron Harang.

The Bell decision has been discussed ad nauseaum both here and on other forums.  Based on how the closer market has initially played out (see the contract offer to Ryan Madson and contract signed by Jonathan Papelbon), Bell will likely make around $10M to pitch in 2012 regardless of where he toils.  For a Padres team likely to not have a payroll north of $50M, his salary represents at least 20% of the total team payroll.  That is a lot - especially considering he will throw less than 80 innings next season. 

From a PR perspective the Padres were forced to offer arbitration to Bell.  He is the biggest name draw currently on the roster.  He has previously stated he wants to pitch here and the Padres can use all the good PR they can get.  From a practical perspective, because of their limited financial assets this team has to build through the draft, and getting the 2 compensation picks for Bell is a must.  Now the team has to hope he both does not sign a free-agent deal with someone else before 9 December and declines arbitration, so they get those picks.

Which brings us to Harang.  Did you know he was a Type B free agent?  He led the Padres in wins but was only worth 0.6 WAR according to Fangraphs (1.9 by Baseball Reference).  This arbitration offer is really interesting to me, but from a social perspective vice a baseball one.  Recall that the Padres held a mutual option on Harang for 2012, at $5M.  Aaron wanted to return but San Diego declined to pick up his option.  Now they've offered him arbitration.

So basically what they're saying is, 'We wouldn't mind having you back, but we think you're worth less than $5M, and what we really want is the draft pick.'  I'd have loved to be a fly-on-the-wall for the conversation between GM Josh Byrnes and Harang's agent.  Can you even have that discussion without insulting the player?  The poetic-justice outcome here would be for Harang to accept arbitration and get a pay bump north of the $5M he was to have received if the option had been honored.

Heath Bell's contract resolution will be more extensively covered, but I for one can't wait to see how Harang's arbitration case plays out.

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