Why doesn’t anyone go year to year anymore?

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Baseball owners got a good thing going on.

Sporting a pretty impeccable record after three seasons, Clayton Kershaw was eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter. Coming off a season that saw him take the NL Cy Young Award and the pitcher’s triple crown, he had a chance to set a new salary record for pitchers with his service time.

And yet he passed. Kershaw agreed to a two-year, $19 million contract on Tuesday. He didn’t even insist on receiving as much as Tim Lincecum got from the Giants two years ago. As a super-two player, Lincecum received $23 million for two years from the Giants after 2009.

I get why Kershaw would want to play it safe and take the payday. That first $20 million certainly sets one up for life in a way a $6.5 million salary for 2012 (that’s what the Dodgers offered him in arbitration) wouldn’t have.

Still, young players are giving up too much earnings potential in multiyear deals lately. And that everyone is doing it makes arbitration that much more of a risk for each new class of players.

That’s because arbitration is all about comparables. The players and teams both look at players with similiar performance and service time in judging their requests and offers. It’s weighed heavily in the event that the case eventually goes before an arbitrator.

But these days so many of the comparables are already locked up to long-term deals paying them less than what they could be earning. Who does Kershaw compare to? Cole Hamels? As part of a three-year deal, he made $4.35 million in what would have been his first year of arbitration. Jon Lester? $3.75 million in the second year of a five-year deal. Lincecum is the closest match. He made $8 million as a super-two player and $13 million with three-plus years of service time last year. 

Kershaw asked for $10 million in arbitration this winter, a price that seemed pretty reasonable given his performance. But rather than hold out for it, he’ll get a $500,000 signing bonus, $7.5 million this year and $11 million next year.

And so the cycle will continue. That so few of the game’s great young players have been willing to test arbitration holds down the salaries of the group as a whole. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for baseball. In fact, it’s probably a good thing; where would the Rays be right now if they had to pay Evan Longoria, James Shields and Ben Zobrist arbitration salaries? Still, I’d rather see the Kershaws of the game claim a bigger piece of the pie.

The Mets will not commit to Matt Harvey making his next start

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Matt Harvey has had a bad and injury-filled couple of years. He hit spring training in decent physical shape, however, and there was much talk about a possible Harvey Renaissance. At times in February, March and in his first start in early April he looked alright too.

That has changed, however. Over his last three starts he has allowed 14 runs on 25 hits in 16 innings, with his latest stinker being last night’s six runs on eight hits outing against the Braves. The poor pitching has resulted in Mets manager Mickey Calloway not committing to Harvey taking his next turn in the rotation. Or, as Ken Davidoff reports in the Post, not commenting when asked if Harvey would, indeed, make his next start.

It’s bad enough when the manager will not make such a commitment, but the Mets pitching coach, Dave Eiland, made comments after the game suggesting the possibility of the Mets putting Harvey in the bullpen. The comments were not pointed, but this suggests his thinking, I’d assume:

While neither Callaway nor Eiland would tip his hand about Harvey’s immediate future, Eiland, who most recently worked for the Royals, smiled when a reporter asked him if he had ever switched a starter to the bullpen under duress. “Yeah, a guy by the name of Wade Davis,” he said. “It turned out pretty well for him.”

That’s a generous way of putting it and, for Harvey, such comments could soften the blow to his ego if, indeed, the club decides to move him to the bullpen. It’s not a demotion, he could claim, it’s the team giving him a chance to regain his past stardom in a different role!

However, whether it was because he was stinging from a poor performance or because he simply hates the idea, Harvey seemed to reject the possibility out of hand, saying, “I’m a starting pitcher. I’ve always been a starting pitcher. That’s my mindset.”

Looks like he’s either going to have to change his mindset or else he’s not going to have a place to pitch in New York for very much longer.