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Monday, February 18, 2008
Astros and Loretta Today in a Hearing - Three More Slated for This Week

Representatives for Mark Loretta will argue his case before a panel of arbitrators today in the fifth hearing for this year. The teams hold a 4-0 edge, and I predicted last week that Loretta will win this one. My predictions so far are 3-1. I did not pick the Yankees-Chien-Ming Wang correctly.

Loretta is seeking $4,900,000 while the Astros countered with $2,750,000. Last year, Loretta’s base salary was $2,500,000, and he apparently earned all $1 million of the incentives when he played 133 games for Houston after Adam Everett went down with an injury after colliding with Carlos Lee. Everett is now in Minnesota. Loretta’s batting average last year was .287 with 132 hits and 52 runs scored. His on-base percentage of .352 is just 10 points below his lifetime average. He is two hits shy of 1,600 for his career. Loretta made $2,500,000 in 2004 and $2,750,000 in 2005 while playing for the Padres. During 2006, he earned $3,250,000 for the Red Sox. He also enjoyed a 3-year, $11,000,000 from the Milwaukee Brewers for 2000-2002.

The Astros will argue that he is a back-up now and should not get $4,900,000. However, he turned in 72 games at shortstop, 49 at second base, 24 at first base, and 23 at third base last year. He played 138 games at second base for the Red Sox in 2006 and over 150 games at second base twice for the Padres (2003-2004). The Astros have really revamped their infield for this year, but Loretta is still a valuable player. I would find it hard to essentially cut his salary after last year although the $4,900,000 is probably a reach. The gap here is significant, and one side is going to feel really vindicated when this one is finished. I am still leaning towards the player in this one.

There are three hearings set for this week - Ryan Howard and the Phillies (Wednesday, 2-20), Oliver Perez and the Mets (Thursday, 2-21), and Francisco Rodriguez and the Angels (Thursday, 2-21).

After reading the articles on the Chien-Ming Wang hearing, I might have discounted too much the impact of Wang being a "Super Two" and the salaries of his peers in years of service. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman was quoted as saying "[b]ased on where the market is there is no room to go higher. The mid-point made no sense. We filed and we defended it." The panel was apparently persuaded by this position and/or other aspects of the New York presentation.

Speaking of the panels, the panel for Wang included Jack Clarke, Stephen Goldberg,
and Christine Knowlton. Goldberg is an extremely experienced baseball salary arbitrator. According to my research, Stephen Goldberg’s two decisions last week were his 38th and 39th hearings. He is now 23-16 in favor of the teams after siding with the Yankees and the Astros (versus Valverde). Jack Clarke is an even 8-8 in his 16 panel decisions. Knowlton voted for the Nationals in the Felipe Lopez case, the Yankees in the Wang case, and the Astros in the Valverde case. Her panels have voted 7-1 in favor of the teams.

The other panels and the arbitrators records are as follows:

Felipe Lopez - Team (Knowlton - 5-1 for the team, Elliot Shriftman - 10-5 for the team, Steven Wolf - 2-2)

Jose Valverde - Team (Knowlton - 7-1 for the team, Goldberg - 23-16 for the team, and newcomer Sylvia Skratek - 1-0 for the team)

Brian Fuentes - Team (Robert Bailey - 2-1 for the team, Dan Brent - 11-4 for the team, and Shriftman - 11-5 for the team)

Of the 48 players who exchange numbers, 40 have settled, 4 have completed hearings with decisions, and 4 are still waiting for a hearing or to reach an agreement. There is a strong chance that Howard, Perez, and Rodriguez will all go proceed to hearings. Ten of the 40 who have settled were rewarded with multiyear deals. Two players and teams settled above the midpoint, 7 at the midpoint, and 21 below the midpoint.



These posts are great reads.

I have a question on Mark Loretta's hearing. How much will his mediocre (or worse) slugging percentage (.372) hurt him? I know he played a utility role last year, but if he had been considered a 2nd baseman, his slugging percentage would have been the 2nd worst among National League second basemen.

Do you think slugging percentage is discounted for a utility guy, whereas other stats (e.g., number of positions played) are given more weight, or will this hurt him?

Blogger Michael McCann -- 2/18/2008 4:35 PM  

I think that slugging percentage is a factor, and I am certain that the Astros used that against him. The interesting think is that he played shortstop last year so how does that play into what each side presents to the panel. The main strategy is to get 10 guys that look like your player and argue from their contracts. I will be interested in the arbitrators because I might change my prediction if the panel looks really pro-team.

Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 2/18/2008 5:32 PM  

Another possible point of interest is that veteran free agents are the unusual group in arbitration. Usually the group is dominated by Super 2s through 6-year veterans just on the cusp of free agency. Todd Walker and the Padres went to a hearing last year. Walker lost and received the team offer of $2,750,000 instead of his request for $3,950,000. Jack Clarke, Elizabeth Neumeier, and Steven Wolf formed the panel. The Padres released Walker on March 26. He signed a free agent deal for $450,000 with Oakland on March 30, but he was released on May 17.

Blogger Ed Edmonds -- 2/18/2008 5:40 PM  

Oliver Perez should be interesting because it'll be a good way to gauge how much arbitrators feel about the season before a good one as he had a great 2004, then two bad years, and a good year in 2007.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/18/2008 9:09 PM  

Ed, thanks for those replies. It will be interesting to see what happens with Loretta.

Blogger Michael McCann -- 2/18/2008 11:11 PM  

Astros defeated infielder Mark Loretta in their arbitration case against him.
Loretta asked for $4.9 million, but will instead receive the $2.75 million that the team offered.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/19/2008 10:50 AM  

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