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Monday, February 09, 2009
Dioner Navarro's Arbitration Hearing Today
Dioner Navarro’s arbitration hearing was today. The Rays offered $2,100,000, and Navarro requested $2,500,000. The midpoint is $2,300,000, and Navarro’s service time is just over three years. He is eligible for the first time this year. There are a couple of good articles on Navarro that are worth looking at, see Tommy Rancel, “More on Arbitration and Dioner Navarro,” Draysbay.com, January 23, 2009, and Mark Topkin, St. Petersburg Times, “Sides Hope to Battle Without Bitterness,” February 8, 2009.
Both articles discuss John Buck, the Kansas City catcher, who settled for $2,200,000 with the Royals in 2008 when he was arbitration eligible for the first year. Buck will get $2,900,000 for this season after settling with the Royals in January. I think that Navarro gets the nod in this comparison, but it is a worthwhile comparable. Rancel also discussed Yadier Molina, but Molina signed a 4- year, $15,500, 000 multiyear deal covering 2008-2011. Multiyear deals are usually avoided in comparable data analysis in arbitration hearings.
Mark Topkin provides a quote from Kendall Almerico, Navarro’s agent, who went up against Rays’ general counsel John Higgins and the Proskauer Rose law firm at the hearing today: "I feel that Navi's arbitration number is very reasonable, especially given that he is offering the Rays a significant hometown discount over what the other All-Star catchers like Mauer and McCann were paid," Almerico said. Joe Mauer signed a 4-year, $33,000,000 deal covering 2007-2010. So, again, this a multiyear deal and generally not a useful comparison. Furthermore, Mauer grew up and attended high school in St. Paul, Minnesota. If we are discussing a “hometown discount,” you have to consider that when talking about Mauer. Mauer was also coming off of a strong 2006 year as the AL batting champion when he signed his current deal. Topkin noted that Navarro’s side would argue that “L.A.'s Russell Martin is getting $3.9 million” and All Stars Mauer ($3,750,000) and Atlanta's Brian McCann received $3,500,000 in his first year of eligibility. However, McCann also signed a multiyear deal - 6-years, $26,800,000 covering 2007-2012.
On the other side of the ledger, Topkin pointed out that the “Rays can cite others, such as John Buck ($2.2 million), Ryan Doumit ($2.05 million), Johnny Estrada and Mike Napoli ($2 million) and Kelly Shoppach ($1.95 million).” Doumit’s number is also year one of a 3-year deal.
Neither Napoli (Angels), who did sign this January with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in his first year of eligibility, nor Shoppach (Indians), who also signed with Cleveland in January in his first year of eligibility, compare well against Navarro in my opinion.
The Rays certainly had to argue uphill today to discount Navi’s accomplishments during the 2008 campaign because he improved his batting average, made the All Star team, improved his statistics in throwing out runners, caught 117 games, and hit .293 in the postseason.
According to the articles posted this evening by AP, the arbitration panel was Elizabeth Neumeier, James Oldham, and Steven Wolf. Elizabeth Neumeier was part of the Hill panel last Friday that ruled in favor of the Nationals’ pitcher. According to my research, her record as a panelist is now 12-9 in favor of teams. Wolf is 3-3. Neumeier and Wolf were together as panelists last year when they split two of the eight 2008 hearings. They sided with Oliver Perez against the Mets, but they held for the Angels against Francisco Rodriguez. If I have the correct biographically data on James Oldham, he is currently the St. Thomas More Professor of Law and Legal History at Georgetown University Law Center. He is serving as the Grievance Arbitrator for the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players' Association. He is also the Permanent Umpire for Alcoa and the United Steelworkers of America. Professor Oldham has considerable experience as an arbitrator. According to my research, this is his first baseball case. Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reported the Neumeier-Oldham-Wolf panel as Hill’s panel last Friday. However, the AP stories that I read covering Hill’s victory listed the panel as Robert Bailey, Fredric Horowitz, and Elizabeth Neumeier. If that information is correct, Bailey now has a 4-2 record favoring players, and Horowitz has a 1-1 record. Bailey was also a member of the Perez panel last year with Neumeier and Wolf. He was also on both the Ryan Howard and Brian Fuentas panels last year.
My analysis provides enough of a push for Navarro to get the nod tomorrow over the Rays. However, I am 0-1 this year, and anyone who tries to predict these outcomes does so at his own peril.