Is it time to do something about “gentleman’s agreements” free agents make to decline arbitration?

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Just like the Yankees and Javier Vazquez, the Brewers and Trevor Hoffman came to a “gentleman’s agreement” that Hoffman will decline what at first glance appeared to be a shocking arbitration offer.

Hoffman made $7.5 million this season and under normal circumstances the Brewers offering him arbitration would essentially be like putting a one-year, $7.5 million deal on the table.

However, because Hoffman has already agreed to decline the arbitration offer there’s no risk of that for the Brewers and instead they’ll basically just get a free second-round draft pick should he sign elsewhere.

Vazquez and the Yankees reached the same type of agreement yesterday and Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com speculates that Orlando Hudson and the Twins have as well.

All three players are Type B free agents, so the agreements don’t change the fact that teams signing them can do so without forfeiting draft picks. Instead the only change is that their old teams can get the benefit of a compensatory draft pick without having to take the risk of truly offering arbitration. It’s definitely gaming the system and with at least two and possibly three or more cases this offseason it seems likely that MLB will (or at least should) attempt to close the loophole somehow going forward.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉