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Red Sox, Junichi Tazawa far apart on arbitration figures

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Is Boston's arbitration record in danger?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox and Junichi Tazawa have exchanged arbitration figures, and they're not particularly close, with Tazawa coming in at $4.15 million and the team at $2.7 million.

Honestly, it's hard to understand Tazawa's position on this one. Going by the typical 40/60/80 arbitration rule-of-thumb, Tazawa should be in line for a salary about a third again as large as his last, which came in at $2.25 million. That would put him at exactly $3 million, making Boston's offer perhaps slightly low, but there's more to it than that.

After all, the idea is that a player makes 40, then 60, and finally 80% of what they'd get on the open market, or something close to that. It doesn't quite work out that way in practice--arbitration prices haven't risen quite as rapidly as free agent prices in recent years--but the bigger issue is that Tazawa's open market price wouldn't be very high right now. The usually reliable reliever was anything but in 2015, pitching to a 4.14 ERA while taking the blame for seven losses. Thus why Boston came in with a smaller raise than they gave him last year.

For all that the Sox and Tazawa are far apart, though, it would be a surprise to see this go to a hearing. For 13 years now, the Red Sox have avoided arbitration cases. The idea is simple: arbitration involves a team telling a player why they're not as good as they think they are. It's bad business, or at least it was in the mind of Theo Epstein. Unsurprisingly, Epstein's disciple Ben Cherington kept things largely the same when he took over. Of course, Dave Dombrowski is in charge now, with no connection to Epstein outside of those members of the front office he kept around. But as it happens, he has a record dating back just as far as Boston's, having never gone to arbitration with a player after taking over the Tigers in 2002.

So yes, they're far apart. But in the end, $1.5 million looks a lot bigger to you and I than to the guys working with nine-figure payrolls. It's probably just a matter of time before Tazawa and the Red Sox find an agreeable compromise.