Tim Lincecum's case shows why arbitration sucks

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Thumbnail image for tim lincecum cy young.jpgJon Heyman wonders how the Giants may make their arbitration case against Tim Lincecum in the event they don’t settle. After noting how easy it would be for Lincecum — two Cy Youngs, babies — he passes along a potential team strategy:

The Giants could claim Lincecum’s second Cy was a “fluke” (a word I heard yesterday to describe it by a management type) in that it was basically a crapshoot between him, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and aided by two stat guys thinking Javier Vazquez should be in the top three.

That’s your case, Giants? “Fluke” + Keith Law + Will Carroll = $8 million? I once had an arbitration panel enter a $3 million award against my
client, and it was on the strength of a case ten times better than
that.

But really, what else would they have? Not much, I’d say, especially considering that Lincecum really didn’t shoot the moon in his demand the way many expected him to.  I guess if I had to argue the team’s case I’d think about mentioning the inherent risk to a young pitcher’s health and hope to get some discount for that risk, but I don’t even know if that’s allowed under baseball’s arbitration rules. It’s almost always about the salary and achievements comparable players. In light of that, being the Giants if this thing goes to a hearing will be a total drag.

Speaking more generally, I’ve never met anyone in the game, on the side of management or on the side of the players, who likes arbitration, and it’s easy to see why.  It’s all about forcing something that isn’t a truly adversarial relationship into an adversarial process.  The law frowns on this because when people don’t have truly opposing views on things it leads to strange and unsatisfying results. Baseball people hate it because it pisses everyone off right at the time — spring — when people should be pulling together.

Here, while the Giants and Lincecum must, by virtue of the process, take different sides on salary, they don’t have truly opposing views either. They both love Timmy. They both want Timmy to be happy. To the extent they have to fight it’s going to be artificial and, if Heyman’s source is right, profoundly silly. Fluke. Please.

Heyman suspects that the case will settle, probably with a two-year deal.  For the Giants’ sake, one hopes so.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.