By the looks of things, an arbitrator panel will decide if either Trevor Story or the Colorado Rockies will keep the $750,000 discrepancy that has kept the shortstop from finalizing a deal.
In whole, 20 MLB players were unable to reach an arbitration agreement and await an expected hearing in February, according to ESPN sources. Tony Wolters is the other Rockie that anticipates a February hearing, making Colorado’s hearing presence greater than the average for big league clubs this year.
It still could be worse for the Rockies, as the Dodgers face four impending hearings. Joc Pedersen looks to earn $9.5 million; the Dodgers have him for $1.75 million less than his requested figure. If the ‘file-and-trial’ approach is elected, these would be the Dodgers’ first hearings in 13 years.
Arbitration hearings make for interesting parody when it comes to showing a player their worth. A team can celebrate your successes and sell your jersey all year, but suddenly your team is on the other side of you in a trial, explaining why you aren’t worth the money you think you are. You may feel like you’re going to court against your employer, only they still control your rights and you’re expected to go back into work as if nothing happened—self-worth intact.
Some of the more notable hearings further that notion:
Lose your trial, and the hostility may reason a player to pursue elsewhere when they can. Alfonso Soriano lost $2 million in a hearing with the Nationals in 2006—he started playing for the Cubs after that season. Francisco Rodriguez lost $2.5 million in a hearing with the Angels in 2008—he played for the Mets the next year.
Win your trial, and it may seem like you’ve got a voice greater than you first anticipated. Andruw Jones won a $1.8 million disparity over the Braves in 2001—he stuck around for several years. Derek Jeter won a $1.8 million disparity over the Yankees in 1999—we all pretty much know how that one played out.
This prophecy comes with great counter-claims, however: Mariano Rivera lost a settlement with New York in 2000 over $2 million, and it’s safe to say there were no severed ties there. We’re left speculating how Story and Wolters feel about their negotiations and the subsequent emotions that come with it, but there’s plenty that can factor into it.
Negotiations for one-year or multi-year deals can still take place between the arbitration deadline and a February hearing date, but yesterday’s deadline locks in the salary figures that the hearing would be based upon. Patrick Saunders’ article explains how most MLB teams are now file-and-trial clubs, meaning they treat the arbitration deadline more like a hard cutoff and await an unbiased panel to make the call, instead of further negotiation. This shows arbitration hearings to be more of a stone-cold practice rather than a kindly-respected decision to both sides, and could understandably serve as why a player may leave once they hit unrestricted free agency down the road.
The Denver Post detailed all the specifics on each Rockie that actually did reach a settlement avoiding a hearing, as did Ben here at Purple Row last night. Jon Gray gets a healthy pay raise, as does David Dahl. Kyle Freeland won’t pull in quite what Gray will, but he will be getting paid around five times more than his previous salary, a sizable increase from the league-minimum territory he was at.
German Marquez and Jon Gray are again cemented as the clear-cut one-two of the rotation. Five other options—labeled ‘likely starter’ to ‘fringe starter’—make up the remainder of Pitcher List projections. Colorado’s starting options are described as “desolate” but with bright spots at the top of the rotation.
Nick Pollack runs the show over at Pitcher List and did this writeup himself, providing comprehensive information for Marquez, Gray and Freeland. All three went to their fastball with over half of their pitches in 2019, and all four work with a listed four-pitch mix (although the paragraph under Marquez’s changeup may humorously suggest otherwise).
Pollack makes a good point about Freeland and how his four-seam fastball set the foundation for a widely successful 2018. A lack of command led to a huge increase in opposing batting average against that pitch; home runs off his four-seam fly balls spiked, further suggesting he wasn’t quite hitting his spots. Freeland’s walks per nine increased only by 0.3 from 2018 to 2019, but with a decrease in fastball zone rate by four points, all of his other pitches were made subsequently worse.
It will be interesting if his pitch percentages are to change, as well (Fastball: 52%, Cutter; 31%, Changeup, 11%, Slider, 6%). He’s surely looking to change something from last year to get back to his old ways—plenty can be evaluated on a pitch-specific basis, and we may get a better idea of his 2020 approach within a few starts.