The Yankees decline to offer Derek Jeter arbitration

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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.

Bartolo Colon ain’t doing so hot this year

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If he wasn’t 44 years-old we’d just call it a slump, but the way Bartolo Colon is pitching right now makes you wonder if the end is nigh.

Colon was shelled this afternoon, giving up seven runs on ten hits and walking three in five innings of work to take the loss against the Pirates. That brings his ERA up to 6.96 on the year. He’s allowed five or more runs in five of his ten starts and opposing batters are hitting .320 against him. One of the big reasons he had been so effective into his 40s had been his low walk rate — he led the NL in this category for the past two seasons — but he’s walking more guys this year than last.

The Braves picked up Colon for the reasons a lot of rebuilding teams pick up veteran starters: to provide innings and stability until the younger arms of the future can mature. Colon, however, has been the weakest link of the Braves rotation.

At some point, every baseball player reaches the end. Almost all of them do it before the age of 44. One hopes, given his history and popularity that Colon is just experiencing a rough patch and that, by mid season, he’ll be reliably pumping strikes into the zone the way he has the past few seasons. But with each bad start he registers this year, that’s seeming like more and more of a stretch.

Braves designate Josh Collmenter for assignment

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Last night Braves reliever Josh Collmenter surrendered three homers and seven runs in the 10th inning of a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He came into the game when it was tied 5-5 so, yeah, ouch. Today Collmenter is on his way to no longer being a Braves reliever as he has been designated for assignment.

Collmenter made 11 appearances for the Braves, going 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in 17 innings. If he doesn’t latch on someplace else he can take heart that his final act in the big leagues was striking out former MVP Andrew McCutchen. If only he hadn’t surrendered consecutive homers to David Freese, Jose Osuna and Jordy Mercer just before that. Oh well. Take the good with the bad.

Right-hander Matt Wisler, who has been no great shakes in the bigs himself, was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett before today’s series finale against the Pirates. He’s currently throwing mopup duty for Bartolo Colon, who got shelled for seven runs in four innings.

Given how Colon is going, maybe the Braves will be thinking about some more transactions soon.