Friday, January 4, 2013

Arbitration and Free Agency: A Key Distinction

Baseball arbitration and free agency differ tremendously in one respect: free agency is about what a player will achieve while arbitration focuses on what he has done.

Future projections – based on past performance – play a role in free agency. But projections aren’t included in the arbitration criteria. This distinction makes certain types of information and analysis, which clubs may not want to see in a free agent package, extremely important to an agent’s arbitration brief.

For example, skills like bunting and advancing runners with outs won’t fetch top dollar on the free agent market. But arbitration is a whole different ballgame. Exhibits detailing how a player excelled at “little things” – that resulted in wins – help make your brief a winner. Demonstrate how he performed better than comparable arbitration eligibles in these areas, and it strengthens your case even further.

Gregor Blanco didn’t post big numbers in core statistical categories, but he delivered in many other ways that impacted the Giants outstanding season.

1) Blanco did not hit into a double play in 453 plate appearances. This had only been done seven times since 1950.

2) He advanced a runner from second base with nobody out in seven of eight plate appearances in this situation.

3) He drove in a runner from third base with less than two outs 10 times in 18 opportunities. Six of these RBI came in the seventh inning or later, seven contributed to wins and three made up the margin of victory in one-run games.

4) Blanco topped 25 steals and had 5 triples in fewer than 400 at-bats. Only one other Giants player had done that since 1912.

5) He executed five successful sacrifice bunts. The Giants went 4-1 in these games.

All those feats are impressive enough, but they also contributed to a World Championship team. Looking back, for arbitration, that bottom line is all that matters.

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