Last night was the deadline for major league teams to offer salary arbitration to their ranked (type-A and type-B) free agents, and a surprising 35 of the 64 eligible players were extended the invitation. The most active teams were the Rays and Blue Jays, who respectively offered seven and four players arbitration. With draft picks at stake for those free agents who sign elsewhere, and inflated annual salaries awaiting those who remain, you can bet that most teams will be sitting on pins and needles over the next week as the players decide whether to accept or reject the offer. The Yankees won’t have to endure any suspense, however, because their lone offer was made to Javier Vazquez, who has already agreed to decline the invitation.
The Yankees have been involved in 21 cases since the first arbitration hearings were held after the 1973 season. Over the last decade, however, the team has been much more reticent to engage in the process. Since beating Mariano Rivera in 2000, the Yankees have gone to a hearing with only one other player: Chien Ming Wang in 2008.
All-Time Arbitration History, By Team
The Yankees rank in the middle of the pack in terms of both the number of cases heard as well as winning arguments made. However, the team has had several high profile cases that were particularly noteworthy, particularly for the reaction they elicited from owner George M. Steinbrenner III.
In 1980, Rick Cerone had a breakthrough season in his first year with the Yankees. After finishing seventh in the MVP voting, the veteran catcher asked for a raise that would more than quadruple his salary to $440,000. The Yankees countered with a more modest increase to $350,000, but the arbitrator sided with Cerone. Following the decision, Steinbrenner lambasted Cerone for being disloyal, but the embattled catcher defended his victory by saying he was more than willing to compromise at the midpoint. At the time, Cerone’s award was the second highest in the process’ history, trailing only the $700,000 salary won by Bruce Sutter in his 1980 hearing with the Cubs.
I don’t enjoy a young guy off one good year who was plucked out of Toronto showing so little regard for me. It’s not what I am looking for in my kind of guy. I don’t think Tommy John would do that, or Reggie Jackson or Lou Piniella.” – George M. Steinbrenner III, quoted by the New York Times News Service, February 16, 1981
In 1987, Don Mattingly, who was coming off one the best seasons of his career, asked for a record salary of $1,975,000, which not only turned out to be the largest arbitration award to that point, but also the highest salary ever paid by the Yankees. Once again, the Boss was not happy about making history.
The monkey is clearly on his back…I’ll expect him to carry us to a World Series championship…He’s like all the rest of them now. He can’t play little Jack Armstrong of Evansville, Indiana. He goes into the category of modern-player-with-agent looking for the bucks. Money means everything to him”. – George M. Steinbrenner III, quoted by the New York Times News Service, February 18, 1987
The organization wasn’t the only side to come away from the arbitration process with a sour taste. Before throwing a pitch for the Yankees, Jim Abbott, who was acquired before the 1993 season, first had to do battle with his future employer in the hearing room. Despite having a 2.77 ERA with the Angels in 1992, Abbott was coming off a 7-15 record, which in a less enlightened time probably made his request to double his salary seem a little obscene. After Abbott lost his hearing, Murray Chass of the New York Times wrote that the left hander “wasn’t pleased about the decision”, which only compounded his less than enthusiastic reaction to being traded to the Yankees in the first place.
In 1996, the displeasure was back on the Yankees side when Bernie Williams won a whopping 650% raise from the team. The Yankees had been hoping to negotiate a long-term deal instead, but with Williams and his agent Scott Boras already looking ahead to free agency, the team had little choice but to take things one year at a time.
Continuing a trend, the Yankees also had difficultly inking their other young core players to long-term deals. In 1999, the team lost arbitration hearings to both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and then the following season took their closer to the table once again. The Yankees prevailed over Rivera the second time, but still wound up handing out the largest arbitration-derived salary in team history.
The most interesting element of the 2000 hearing with Rivera was the arguments made on both sides. Rivera’s camp suggested that the closer was at least as valuable as Jeter, who had signed a $10 million deal earlier in the winter. The Yankees, however, countered by suggesting that Rivera added less to the bottom line, citing the fewer number of internet hits and derivative revenue that he generated compared to Jeter.
The Yankees offered a compelling argument to support that claim, noting that from 1997-99, Jeter merchandise sales at Yankee Stadium totaled $2,280,000, compared with $57,000 for Rivera. Over the same three-year period, Jeter received 727,196 hits on the team’s Web site, compared with 68,974 for Rivera.” – Anthony McCarron, New York Daily News Sportswriter, February 19, 2000
I wonder what Casey Close (Jeter’s agent) thinks about that argument now?
Complete History of Yankees’ Arbitration Cases, 1974-Present
|Year||Player||Ask||Offer||$ Increase||% Increase|
|2008||Chien Ming Wang||$4,600,000||$4,000,000||$3,510,500||717.2%|