As Matthew mentioned earlier, Martin Prado requested $7.05 million and was offered $6.65 million from the Braves when arbitration figures were exchanged today. With such a small gap between the two sides, one would think that it wouldn’t take much work to get a deal done, but Braves general manager Frank Wren told David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this afternoon that there will be no more negotiations with Prado because of a club policy.
“We are a file-to-go club,” he said, meaning to file a salary figure and then go to a hearing. “Once we exchanged numbers at 1 o’clock today, we don’t negotiate any further. That’s an organization policy that we’ve taken on for a number of years. We would prefer these end in a settlement negotiation, but at the same time, if they don’t that’s obviously a right the player has, and we have to take it to a neutral arbitration panel.”
In other words, now that salary figures have been exchanged, the Braves plan to leave it up to an arbitration panel to decide on one salary or the other for 2013. There are a handful of other teams who have a similar policy in place, including the Blue Jays, Rays and Marlins. Such a policy can pressure players into working out a contract rather than deal with the potential awkwardness of a hearing. The Braves haven’t had an arbitration case go to a hearing since 2001 with John Rocker, but it sounds like they are prepared to go there if Prado doesn’t take their offer of $6.65 million.
Prado earned $4.75 million last season while hitting .301/.359/.438 with 10 home runs, 70 RBI and a .796 OPS last season. The 29-year-old can become a free agent following the 2013 season.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.