Deciding 5 NL Arbitration Cases- Off the Radar


Chris Heisey is one of several interesting arbitration cases in the NL that will be decided in the coming weeks. Get a sneak peek at what to expect. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As Arbitration filing day was on Friday, teams and players (those that did not already come to a deal) exchanged figures that (baring any deals made before the deadline) will be brought before an independent arbiter. The arbiter will judge which figure is closer to correct, and award the player the salary that seems closer to the what is determined as the player’s worth. In this post, I will look at 5 NL players (AL players will be discussed later this week) and play arbiter and decide which salary figure makes the most sense.

Chris Heisey: Reds

Heisey: 1.65 million

Reds: 1.05 million

MLB Trade Rumors Projection: 1.3 million

Heisey is a 28 year old outfielder with 337 games of MLB service. His peripherals on offense are horrible, walking less than 6 percent of the time and striking out nearly 24 percent of the time. He doesn’t have great power, but he does have a little pop, with .179 ISO and 33 homers. Despite the hitter friendly park in Cincinnati, Heisey has been basically the same as a hitter both at home and on the road. His peripherals are basically the same against both lefties and righties, but he has both a higher BABIP and ISO against righties, which is why his numbers are higher against them. Naturally, this is the larger sample size, and his BABIP of about .330 isn’t crazy and the ISO over a decent sample size suggests there is something real there. He seems to be a good baserunner, with not many steals, but good speed scores and baserunning values. He has played mainly left-field since coming to the big leagues, and defensive metrics seem to be somewhat mixed (DRS doesn’t like him, while FRAA and UZR does). He has a career WAA of -.2, so he seems like a borderline starter, and that is how the Reds have treated him the past two seasons, as he has played 120 games each of the last two seasons. This is a theme that we will see throughout this article, as Heisey would certainly receive more than 2 million dollars in free agency. However, he can’t get that much money early on in the arbitration process (which is why Hunter Pence will make more money than Buster Posey in 2013). Because he has basically been a starter, it is hard to rule against Heisey, so I would argue that Heisey deserves the extra $ 600,000.

Jhoulys Chacin: Rockies

September 17, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin (45) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT

Chacin: 2.6 million

Rockies: 1.7 million

MLBTR Projection: 1.6 million

This is the one player out of the five that MLB Trade Rumors didn’t correctly guess the range. This would suggest that the Rockies have the better case here, but the Coors field variable makes judging Chacin difficult (one need to look no further than guys like Esmil Rogers and Jeremy Guthrie to see this). On the one hand, his career 83 ERA – and 94 FIP – is quite good, especially as a 25 year old with 411.1 MLB innings under his belt. On the other, he started just 14 games in 2012 and wasn’t as good. The service time and success makes it really hard for me to argue against Chacin, especially because of his solid ground-ball rate. However, his ground-ball rate and his strikeout rate both regressed in 2012 and he has always had a large walk rate (his 4.35 career kwERA is not impressive, and one wonders if he will be able to keep a low home run rate and continue to outperform his peripherals). While the classification problems concerning fastballs/moving fastballs/cutters are always difficult for Pitch F/X systems, it does appear that he lost a little velocity in 2012. Whether he is able to regain this, and whether or not 2012 was just a injured filled blip on the radar, will determine his value in 2012. I think you could seriously make the case he is still worth 2.6 million dollars, even in the arbitration system, the above concerns could give the Rockies a decent case against Chacin.

Shin-Soo Choo: Reds

Oct 2, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo (17) walks to the dugout after striking out in the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Choo: 8 million

Reds: 6.75 million

MLBTR Projection: 7.9 million

Choo shows why the baseball system of arbitration is so interesting. The Reds just traded for Choo, and they plan to use him in a position that he hasn’t played much of at all in his career. If no deal is reached before the arbitration hearing, the Reds will have to make the case that Choo is not very good, or at least not as good as Choo and his agent thinks he is. MLBTR projects him to make nearly exactly Choo’s proposed salary. While Choo’s listed value will most likely go down in 2013 because he will most likely struggle to adapt to center (though he certainly has the arm for it, and he seems to have good speed, suggesting he could cover the ground necessarily), this would not be his fault. While he hasn’t hit for a lot of power in his career, especially for a prototypical corner outfielder, he has been a very good hitter. While he took a step back in 2011, he was still above league average, and he was right on career averages in 2012. He is a naturally high BABIP hitter, which could be because of his high GB % and good speed. How these type of players age doesn’t matter all that much, because the Reds only have to pay Choo for one year (that is how arbitration works after all). Choo is a guy that has played almost 700 games in his career and obviously has the service time, along with the success, to be a high paid guy. The rather big difference in filing numbers are interesting (I would think that there would be enough communication between the team and the agent for their not to be such a large difference in filing numbers) and to me, it seems that the arbitrator should rule in favor of Choo. I am just guessing here, but I would think the two settle before the actual hearing.

Daniel Murphy: Mets

Sep 28, 2011; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy (28) makes the game-ending out against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. The Mets defeated the Braves 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Murphy: 3.4 million

Mets: 2.55 million

MLBTR Projection: 3 million

While New York is such a media saturated city, it does seem that it is possible to be underrated and somewhat unheard of in the city of New York. Murphy has split time between 1st and 2nd and fielded very well according to the fielding metrics available. He has also been an above average hitter and played in 469 games. He is first time arbitration eligible, and doesn’t have a lot of value at 1st base anymore (especially since the Mets already have a couple of different players who can play there), but he is an interesting player. MLBTR is basically split down the middle on which side is correct, but I like Murphy, he sure looks like an every day player according to advanced metrics, and so I think he should be paid closer to what a big league starter deserves, especially if you believe he can handle 2nd.

Clayton Richard: Padres

Sep 12, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Clayton Richard (33) pitches during the sixth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Richard: 5.55 million

Padres: 4.905 million

MLBTR Projection: 5 million

A low strikeout, low walk, medium homer pitcher, left-handed pitcher, Richard has nearly 120 career starts in the big leagues. However, he has been below average in the big leagues according to both park/league adjusted ERAs and FIPs. He has about an average fastball that he throws very heavily along with quite a bit of sliders and changeups, throwing an occasional curveball. He has a heavy ground-ball rate, but even with the aggressively pitcher friendly park (that will be slightly adjusted in 2013), he has a slightly higher than league average HR/FB %. MLBTR projects closer to the Padres’ side, and I tend to agree with them. He is a below average starter on a small market (as far as payroll goes) team.

Arbitration is a little trickier than free agency, as players are not free to take offers from other teams. This makes projecting how much they are worth a little harder (which is why MLBTR’s projections are so impressive). Because it represses player salaries, I tend to side with the player in most arbitration cases.