Ten days ago marked the deadline for teams and players to exchange figures for potential arbitration trials. It was also the day many arbitration-eligible players agreed to one-year deal to avoid the hassle of a hearing. The Red Sox were no exception, with the majority of their players agreeing to a deal. After the deadline, just two holdouts remained: Drew Pomeranz and Fernando Abad. As of this writing, neither of them have agreed to a deal.
Pomeranz was the most interesting case at first, given how far apart the two sides were in their figures. The pitcher filed at $5.7 million and the team filed at $3.6 million. That’s a huge gap in a process where the two sides are generally separated by around $500K. The disparity makes sense, though, given Pomeranz’ strange year. The southpaw was an All-Star in the first half with San Diego, looking like one of the great stories of the league. Then, he was a combination of disappointing and injured in the second half with the Red Sox, totally changing the perception of him around the league. Arbitration is supposed to represent the entire picture, but it’s hard to pinpoint a value on such a roller coaster of a season.
Because of all that, it appeared there was a decent chance the two sides would go to an arbitration hearing. Instead, it looks probable that they’ll be able to avoid that process, which is good news for everyone involved.
Surprisingly, Dave Dombrowski wasn’t as optimistic regarding Abad. The left-handed reliever was obviously a disappointment after being dealt to the Red Sox at the trade deadline, to the point that it was surprising the team even tendered him a contract. They did, though, and the two sides differ by $700K. Apparently, neither side is willing to budge, as a trial is looking more and more likely.
If this does actually go to trial — and it’s important to remember to take everything a front office says about negotiations with a grain of salt — it would be a huge break from both the team’s and this specific front office’s usual tactics. The Red Sox haven’t been to an arbitration hearing since they did so with Rolando Arrojo back in 2002. Dombrowski’s last hearing was a year later in 2003. It’d be strange for this to be the case that broke both of those streaks, but everything has to end sometime.
The good news is, Abad isn’t exactly someone with whom you’d be worried about creating an awkward situation. The entire idea of a trial is to argue that your player doesn’t deserve the money he’s asking for, which can clearly make for some arguments the player doesn’t want to hear. If you’re going to go into that situation with anyone (and you really should try not to), you’d do it with a reliever who may not be on the roster for the entire season. This was a surprising bit of information to come out of Winter Weekend, but I still won’t believe in a potential trial until it actually happens.
UPDATE: Pomeranz and the Red Sox have settled at $4.25 million. That’s $200K under the midway point. We’ll see how things go with Abad, but the team is one step closer to continuing their arbitration-less streak.