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Thursday, March 19, 2009
Shawn Hill Released by the Washington Nationals

Bill Ladson of reported yesterday that the Nationals placed Shawn Hill “on waivers Wednesday for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release.” Ladson also reported that Hill will receive one-sixth of the $775,000 that he was awarded last month by an arbitration panel. Hill’s injury problems persisted into this spring, and he had only been able to pitch twice due to forearm tightness. Chico Harlan noted in his article for the Washington Post that the payment to Hill of just under $130,000 was exercised on Wednesday because of a deadline for the payment of a fractional amount. Both reporters stated that Hill took the news very hard.

Later in the day the Nationals signed Joe Beimel for $2,000,000. Beimel went to a hearing with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2007. The arbitration panel of Stephen Goldberg, Elizabeth Neumeier, and John Sands sided with the Dodgers figure of $912,500. Beimel was asking for $1,250,000. Neumeier was also on the Hill panel this year along with Robert Bailey and Frederic Horowitz. Nationals manager Manny Acta expects to use Beimel as the set-up man in the eighth inning.

So, two pitchers who have both endured the hearing process have an interesting connection on the same day in March 2009. Beimel, who started his major league career as a starter with the Pittsburgh Pirates posted a 5-1 record last year in 71 games for the Dodgers. His 2.02 ERA was the best of his eight-year career. The Nationals will be his fifth team. Beimel also pitched for the Minnesota Twins (2004) and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2005). Beimel became a free agent for the first time at the end of 2008 season. His contract with the Nationals is a little under the amount he earned last year with the incentives that he met according to an article by Tony Jackson on the Los Angeles Daily News inside the dodgers blog.


So it looks like Hill would have been better off accepting some type of deal rather than pushing to arbitration since reaching a deal would have guaranteed him the salary but the team could cut him with the arbitration award. Didn't the same thing happen to Todd Walker a couple of years ago? Might teams start trying to use this as some type of leverage ploy in negotiations?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 3/20/2009 12:51 PM  

Yes, Todd Walker did go to arbitration in 2007 with the San Diego Padres. Walker's 2006 salary was $2,500,000. He asked for a raise to $3,950,000 while the Padres offered $2,750,000. Walker had been traded by the Cubs to the Padres in July 2006, and he was granted free agency in October. He was resigned by the Padres in December and offered and accepted arbitration. After beating the Padres in arbitration, he was released late in spring training after the Padres signed Marcus Giles to complete their starting infield for a season where they stayed in the West pennant/wild card race until the end before finishing as the odd team out. The Padres were still forced to pay Walker $971,311 in termination pay. Walker managed to get a deal from the Oakland A's for $450,000, but he was released in May, and his major league career was over.

So, yes, it does appear that there are times when the whole strategy falls apart for a player after winning an arbitration hearing.

I think these two cases are a bit different because Walker was 34 years old and in his twelfth year in the majors. At the salary he was awarded he needed to be projected as a significant contributor to the Padres in 2007. Whether or not he would have helped them at second more than Giles who hit only .229 in 116 games that year is the kind of debate that can make all of this analysis and reanalysis interesting. Giles was released after the 2007 season by the Padres. He signed a minor league deal with the Rockies but was also released during spring training. Giles is trying to get back into the big leagues with the Phillies. In 15 games this spring he has only 5 hits in 32 ABs.

Hill was fighting for a spot as the fifth starter. If he had been healthy, I think that his $775,000 salary would have a good deal for the Nationals. However, they either decided that they could not wait any longer to see if he was going to be healthy or were only willing to bet $500,000 on that possibility. Keep in mind that they have to pay everyone on the roster the league minimum of $400,000. The other factor here that is tough to figure out is how the resignation of general manager Jim Bowden impacted this move.

I think that teams and agents try all kinds of ways to create leverage during negotiations. The basic fact that teams often get rid of players who go to arbitration hearings should not be lost on most players and their agents.

Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 3/21/2009 8:52 PM  

Isn't this one of the reasons that Varitek said that he declined arbitration. Assuming his arbitration salary award would have been a minimum of $8 million, isn't there a very real risk that he could be released.

You see it when guys get nontendered all the time when they will be making more than they are really worth (see Giles with the Braves, see Eckstein with the Angels). Why wouldn't the same apply with an arbitration award that the team deems "excessive." Say the Padres valued Walker at 2.9 Million but would rather go with a "cheaper" alternative if the price were to reach 3.9 Million, why not make that clear to Walker at the outset and try to use that as leverage?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 3/22/2009 2:54 PM  

SUNDAY 10:03am: Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star says the Jays are expecting to sign Shawn Hill as soon as he clears waivers. Griffin has a quote from J.P. Ricciardi:

"'We wouldn't be signing him to come in here and make the major-league staff," Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said. 'We'd have to get him up to speed, kind of like (former major-leaguer) Wade Miller (currently in minor-league camp). We're just trying to get as many arms as we can in here. We know the young kids are going to struggle. ... We're trying to put them in spots they might not be ready for. We get some veteran guys here and they can hold the fort down. ... It gives us enough experience where we can just ease them in as opposed to throwing them in.'"

Blogger Pbenn001 -- 3/22/2009 5:36 PM  

The Padres did sign Marcus Giles for $3,250,000 for 2007. With the payment to rid themselves of Walker, they ended up paying over $3,950,000. I would say that they better approach instead of trying to use "leverage" after an exchange of numbers would have been to not offer arbitration at all. That is what the Braves did with Marcus Giles because they knew that his arbitration award would have been more than they wanted to pay. I am sure that Walker realized that he took a risk. However, when the Padres offered Walker arbitration and he wanted to play in San Diego, he agreed to arbitration. He could have taken the approach that Varitek took and worked out a deal that appears to be to the liking of the Red Sox. The panel agreed with Walker so they felt that the figure offered by the Padres was too low based on the midpoint. Walker could also have filed a bit of a lower number. Once the Padres figured out that Giles was available, I guess that they started to look at other possibilities. In the long run, I think if they were pegging a certain figure for second base, they ended up overpaying for the results that they ended up with.

Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 3/22/2009 6:14 PM  

According to Chico Harlan of the Washington Post, the Padres signed pitcher Shawn Hill to a minor league deal. Hill was released by the Nationals on Wednesday and also drew interest from the Blue Jays. San Diego is a great match, as he'll presumably have a rotation spot if healthy. A bonus for the Padres: they'll have the chance to keep Hill under team control through 2012 as an arbitration-eligible player.

Blogger Pbenn001 -- 3/24/2009 1:19 PM  

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