Blue Jays go to arbitration with MVP Josh Donaldson over $450,000
Donaldson seeking $11.8 million and Toronto has countered at $11,350,000. The Jays stand to lose more than they'd gain in the long run (even with money) if they drag him to an arbitration panel.
Using salary arbitration with a player isn't necessarily the worst thing a major-league team can do, but clubs usually prefer to avoid the process. It is literally contentious and sometimes contemptuous and, often, it gets personal for the players. The Toronto Blue Jays have avoided going to arbitration with several of their players this offseason, but two -- notably including AL MVP Josh Donaldson -- filed Friday after failing to agree with the team on a salary for 2016.
Donaldson wants $11.8 million, and the Jays want to pay $11,350,000. If the difference seems close, it is. It's $450,000, which doesn't even buy a player for the MLB minimum salary anymore. If you average out Donaldson's request with Toronto's -- $11,575,000 is the middle -- the difference is is 3.89 percent.
The Blue Jays are going to arbitration with the reigning AL MVP over a cost-of-living adjustment. Or, you could say: Donaldson is going to arbitration with the Blue Jays, because it's a two-way street. Not that it is, really. The Jays are the party with the money.
The Jays went to arbitration with Donaldson last year, and beat him, which probably has something to do with their reasoning for acting like they're willing to go back to court in '16. Our own Mike Axisa wrote about what the arbitration process can be like:
The savings do come with a potential cost, however. Arbitration is an ugly process that can create animosity between the player and his team. Imagine if you had to sit through an arbitration hearing while your employer pointed out all your flaws in an effort to give you a smaller raise than you feel you deserve. How could that be a pleasant experience?
Here's what current Angels reliever and ex-Indians pitcher Vinnie Pestano told MLB.com's Jordan Bastian after losing his arbitration hearing to Cleveland last offseason:
Quotes from a general manager, manager or player are fair game for both sides during an arbitration hearing and that tactic is relatively common. That did not make it any easier for Pestano -- one of the team's most media-friendly players -- to hear his words used to support the team's stance.
"You're being honest and accountable and saying the right things and being there," Pestano said, "and then later you find your own words in the paper, and somebody is trying to use your words against you to drive your value down. Whether that played a big role in the decision, I don't know.
"That was the only thing that I didn't care for. I definitely think it'll affect how I see things going forward. I don't really know if I can be as honest and up-front anymore. I've got three more years of arbitration left. I don't know what they'll pick to use against me next year or two years from now."
It's not just feelings the Jays risk. Look ahead to free agency in 2019: After listening to the Jays rip him in arbitration, is it going to make Donaldson more willing to take a "hometown discount" to stay in Toronto? Yeah, it's not likely that Donaldson will be signing a contract extension with the Jays at that point, and it's probable that other teams would outbid the Jays in free agency. But why would Toronto want to lessen their leverage at all over a relatively small amount of money?
The Blue Jays, rightly, want to account for every penny they have to pay their players, like any other team (or employer in any industry). And it's possible that they'll continue to negotiate with Donaldson -- it's done all the time -- until the actual hearing happens in a few weeks. But they should settle before it gets to that point. It would be so unnecessary and ill-advised for the Jays to go through the exercise in order to save less than 4 percent of the contract.
For a different player and a different amount of money, perhaps. But Donaldson was, again, the MVP in 2015, and the amount of money in question won't pay for the animus the could be engendered by another arbitration hearing.