Teams have until midnight tonight in order to offer arbitration to free agents. If they do, and the players accept, the player will stay with the team and there will be a fun arbitration. If they do and the player declines, the team will get draft picks from whatever team eventually signs the free agent. If they don’t offer arbitration, the team gets nothing in return.
There’s always a gamble involved here, with a team often wanting to get the draft pick compensation, but not wanting to get stuck with the free agent in the event he accepts arbitration. The most famous recent example of this was Rafael Soriano accepting the Braves’ offer of arbitration last winter, which freaked the Braves out, as they had already signed Billy Wagner to be their closer and had no desire to pay Soriano what he would have received in arbitration. That led to a panic trade of Soriano to the Rays for a bucket of warm spit. OK, that’s not fair. You could at least use a bucket of warm spit to melt ice off your driveway. The Braves got nothing useful in return.
So that’s the setup, and the decisions on arbitration offers will be coming in all day. So far we have two: the Tigers and the Yankees. The Tigers have declined to offer arbitration to any of their free agents (Magglio Ordonez, Johnny Damon, and Gerald Laird). Makes sense because all of them are certain to see their salaries go way down on the market, so they may be inclined to accept arbitration. The Tigers don’t want to chance it, so no offers for them.
Likewise, the Yankees have declined to offer Derek Jeter arbitration. This also makes some sense, not just for the “he may accept and we’ll have to pay him $18 million again” angle — that may not be the worst thing in the world for New York — but also because an offer might antagonize Jeter a bit. Why? Because a free agent with an arbitration offer is less valuable on the open market because any would-be signing teams know they’ll have to give up a pick for him. Jeter likely isn’t going anywhere else, but it still makes political sense to avoid that kind of thing.
It’s in the Yankees’ best interest, I believe, to make Jeter feel like as big and valuable a man as they can until the precise moment when he agrees to a contract that is more favorable to the team. Put differently, it’s better for him to extract psychic value from thinking that he could go elsewhere for the biggest bucks than to have to deal with the arbitration offer during conversations with his agent. And ultimately, the Yankees would not like to have to go through all of this garbage again next year like they would if they went to arbitration with the guy.
Anyway, we’ll keep you updated throughout the day on any significant or unexpected arbitration-offer news.
Stadium naming rights have long been with us. They’re just a part of the sports landscape now. Some are pretty spiffy despite their corporate underwriting: “Great American Ballpark” could be the name of a sports facility even if it wasn’t also the name of an insurance company. “Progressive Field” could be the name of a field even an anti-corporate dude like Bernie Sanders could appreciate, at least if he’s sloppy with capitalization.
Others are clunky: “Globe Life Park in Arlington” seems to have both adjective and preposition problems, as if it were run through a foreign language translator and then back again to English. The joint in Oakland went by the name O.co Coliseum for a spell. That was for Overstock.com, but it didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
At the risk of being snobbish, I think it’s fair to say that there are also higher and lower rent names as well. Banks, airlines and beer companies, however crassly commercial they are, seem a bit more respectable and venerable than, say, the fly-by-night dot com companies which named sports facilities for several years. “Chase” and “Coors” aren’t going anyplace. Those places are named after American institutions, even if they’re still corporate institutions. I’m pretty sure that circa 2001 half the stadiums and arenas in the country were named after businesses still being run out of tech incubators in nondescript office parks, their first biggest investment being the naming rights, their second biggest investment being the ping pong table in the break room.
The White Sox have long played in “U.S. Cellular Field.” This is pretty dicey as it is, given that that company is only a regional wireless provider. Fifth largest in the country. Certainly not A-list, and likely far more identifiable to more Americans as the name of a ballpark than the name of a going telecommunications concern, thereby sort of defeating the purpose of naming rights. Which must be why U.S. Cellular is getting out of the naming rights business, leaving the White Sox to find a different naming rights partner:
As the tenth largest mortgage company in the country, is there even any guarantee that Guaranteed Rate will be in business in 2030? If the choices are “it goes under,” “it gets purchased by a larger lender” and “it’s still there,” I am not putting money on the latter choice.
That aside, it’s just a goofy name for a ballpark. It’ll better lend itself to columnist jokes about bad guaranteed contracts for bust veterans than it will to spreading awareness of a financial services company. And don’t even get me started on the dissonance between the ballpark name and its tenant’s ticket price policies:
Best work on that, guys.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz have both cleared waivers, which means the club can attempt to trade either player unimpeded. Stark adds that two teams are mulling a pursuit of Ruiz, but Howard is “virtually certain” to stay with the Phillies.
Howard, 36, has unimpressive overall stats, as he’s carrying a .198/.252/.445 triple-slash line with 19 home runs and 43 RBI in 286 plate appearances. The Phillies have limited Howard to right-handed pitching by platooning him with Tommy Joseph.
Shockingly, Howard has been one of the best hitters of the second half, as Corinne Landrey explains at FanGraphs. Using wRC+, an all encompassing offensive statistic that sets 100 at average, only Joey Votto has been a more productive hitter since the All-Star break, owning a 226 wRC+ to Howard’s 191. Howard is trailed by Freddie Freeman (179), Adrian Gonzalez (149), and Paul Goldschmidt (140).
Howard is owed the remainder of his $25 million salary for the 2016 season as well as a $10 million buyout for ’17. Despite Howard’s productive second half and even if the Phillies were to cover all of the remaining money owed, there won’t be much of a market for an inconsistent 1B/DH in his mid-30’s who can’t field, can’t run, and can’t hit left-handed pitching.
Ruiz, 37, has had a solid season, batting .261/.368/.352 in 193 plate appearances. Like Howard, Ruiz has lost playing time at his primary position to a younger player — Cameron Rupp, in this case. Ruiz is owed the remainder of his $8.5 million salary and is under contract next season if his controlling club picks up his $4.5 million option. That option may make him even more attractive to interested clubs, as Ruiz is still a valuable catcher. He has accrued 1.3 Wins Above Replacement despite limited playing time and has a reputation for working well with his pitchers. A playoff-bound club could do a lot worse.