A single arbitrator will decide the fate of 11 Padres players. As Dom discussed yesterday, the Padres have 11 players who filed for arbitration and will begin the process today. That means there are 11 players the Padres either failed to, or chose not to, extend. We’ll try to figure a reason for the lack of a contract extension for each of the 11 players. But first, some Baseball 101.
The Hardball Times has a fantastic article that discusses the history of salary arbitration and explains it very well. For now though, we can just focus on the general arbitration explanation from the Basic Agreement:
The arbitration panel shall, except for a Player with five or more years of Major League service, give particular attention, for comparative salary purposes, to the contracts of Players with Major League service not exceeding one annual service group above the Player’s annual service group. This shall not limit the ability of a Player or his representative, because of special accomplishment, to argue the equal relevance of salaries of Players without regard to service, and the arbitration panel shall give whatever weight to such argument as is deemed appropriate.
Essentially, this says that not every player is the same. An arbitrator is required to recognize that and make a decision accordingly. The arbitrator is presented the club’s contract offer and the player’s contract demand, then he (or she) must make a decision. With that in mind, let’s examine the Padres 11.
The Padres are not 100% sure what they received in Volquez. If he has a great year in 2012, he may get a contract extension then. But to extend his contract without seeing a single pitch thrown in a Padres uniform would be foolish. If all goes well, Volquez will come back from the slide he’s shown in Cincinnati and be offered a club-friendly contract by the end of 2012.
All Stauffer has done is answer the call. The team needs him in the bullpen? He’s there. The team needs a spot starter? He’s there. The team needs a full-time starter? He’s there. And every time he’s been “there,” he’s delivered more than the Padres could have asked for. He’s compiled a solid 3.97 ERA in his time with San Diego. He walks just 3 per nine innings overall, but reduced that number to 2.6 in his last two seasons. And he’s averaged 1.27 WAR per 150 innings pitched in his career with the Padres.
Unfortunately for Stauffer, he is entering his age 30 season and has failed to break-out into that can’t miss type pitcher. He’s battled injuries and threw more than 85 innings for the first time last season. He’s a wild card for now, and the Padres, in all likelihood, are looking to see how he performs with another full season under his belt as a starter. Even with this arbitration year, the team will still have another in 2013 at their disposal if they feel they need to evaluate Stauffer further or simply don’t want to give him a long-term contract.
Moseley found himself starting for the Padres at the start of the 2011 season. However, he injured himself while batting. Moseley injured his left shoulder at the plate and had to undergo surgery in August of last season. This ended his season. He had a solid season up to that point posting a 3.30 ERA with an average of jut 2.7 walks per nine innings. His strikeouts per nine innings were nothing to get excited about, but he was worth half a win in his 20 starts in 2011.
The Padres would probably like to see more of Moseley before they attempt any contract extension. He should remain relatively cheap even after this arbitration process, and the Padres have another arbitration year ahead of them in 2013 if they choose to go that route. Not extending Moseley’s contract was the safer bet than extending it.
The former Michigan quarterback took a step back last year. His ERA was still a decent 3.88, but he only pitched in 99.2 innings. His strikeouts per nine dropped to the lowest of his career, 4.8. Richard was another Padres pitcher to undergo season-ending surgery on his left shoulder last season. Shoulder injured requiring surgery are always risky, and offering a contract extension without seeing how the pitcher reacts to the repaired shoulder would make no sense.
It wasn’t clear that Thatcher would even accept the Padres arbitration offer this offseason, but he did. Thatcher is simply not the type of guy the Padres are looking to offer long-term contracts to. He is a middle-reliever who pitched in 10 innings last season. While he adds a left-handed arm to the Padres bullpen, he is not a necessity.
We’ve reached the first player I would have liked to see the Padres extend. It’s always a hard case to make for a contract extension to a bullpen pitcher who is not a closer, but Gregerson could be a closer someday. He posted a 2.75 ERA in 55.2 innings last season, averaged 1.79 strikeouts to each walk he issued, and put up 0.4 WAR in limited action from the pen.
Gregerson is just 27 years old and has a lot to offer the Padres. He may not get much more expensive in the coming year, but the Padres surely could have offered him a 3-year $3 million deal. After all, Gregerson hasn’t made more than $450,000 in a single season.
Baker is another transplant acquired via trade. Baker will have to see the field and the plate before the Padres commit to anything beyond his arbitration years. He’s not a free agent until 2015, so the team has plenty of time to make a decision about his future platooning behind the plate.
For anyone who read my article about Hundley’s continued improvement, it’s disappointing to see the Padres allow him to enter arbitration. It shows a lack of value foresight on their part. Hundley is open of the few Padres player willing and able to adjust his style to PETCO Park, and he could be had on a long-term deal for cheap. He is another player who has not $450,000 in a single season. The team will still have ample opportunity to lock him into a long-term contract, but they are risking a break-out season drastically inflating his value.
There are prospects lurking, but Hundley is a proven talent. In addition, he won’t truly block any of the up-and-comers. The position of catcher is perfectly suited for platooning. Hundley not getting an extension is a miss in my book.
Chase Headley is the next miss on the Padres part. Headley is another player who has adjusted his game to fit PETCO Park and help the Padres. He is an average to above average third baseman according to standard and advanced defensive metrics. Headley’s biggest problem is his position. He plays in the exact position the Padres hope to fill one day with Jedd Gyorko.
However, the team could have bought Headley for a few years with a mutually beneficial contract extension. He’s the type of player they could have probably got for around$2-2.5 million a year. Again with Headley, the Padres will still get another shot at extending his contract, but they could be costing themselves a substantial amount of money if Headley out-performs expectations.
Many people hoped the Padres would extend Quentin’s contract to something the Padres could afford, but it seems clear the team doe snot want to go that route. In allowing Quentin to reach arbitration, the Padres have essentially confirmed they are renting Quentin for one year at best and may use him as trade bait come July.
Venable is arbitration eligible for the first time this season. He doesn’t become a free agent until 2016. It makes sense for the Padres to sit back and work out a system that will see him get the at-bats he needs without taking up a fielding position they’d like to give to someone else. He should be platooning with Chris Denorfia in right and will see some time in left next season. Until Venable’s future becomes a little more clear, arbitration is the best path for the Padres.