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Can Freese learn from the Cardinals’ 2009 arbitration cases?

It has been widely repeated that the St. Louis Cardinals have not participated in an arbitration hearing since 1999. At that time, they faced off against pitcher Darren Oliver over $600,000 and won. The arbiters are bound to select either the player’s number or the team’s other, with no compromise. Oliver – who is still in the majors 14 years later – had to accept $3.55 million in salary. The left-hander departed as a free agent following the 1999 season.

Just because the Cardinals have not appeared in front of an arbitration panel since then, it does not mean they have not come very close. In fact, a decade later, in 2009, the club had two cases literally come down to the wire – with outfielders Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick.

Beyond the cash itself, one reason this matters is the disruption and time spent. Even though neither the Cardinals nor the players actually presented in 2009, they still had to fully prepare for the hearing as if they would.

In the case of Ankiel, the parties had already traveled to Arizona and ended up settling just hours before the scheduled hearing. Ludwick and the Cards came to terms the day before their appointment with the arbiters, scheduled five days after Ankiel.

In 2009, Ankiel was in his third and final arbitration-eligible season. In terms of contract expectations, he and the Cards were initially separated by just under $1 million. After settling at the exact midpoint between his submission and that of the club, Ankiel played out his final year as a Cardinal and became a free agent that fall.

Ludwick’s 2009 case is closer to David Freese’s current situation in that both players were/are in their first year of arbitration eligibility. An important comparison point is to those of similar experience levels.

Another interesting fact is the size of the gulf between player and club. Ludwick’s gap in 2009 was $1.45 million, similar to the current Freese delta of $1.35 million.

While Ludwick was not a World Series hero like Freese, he had superior numbers on his side. Ludwick was coming off a breakout offensive season in 2008, during which he hit 37 home runs, drove in 113 and batted .299.

As noted above, the very day before the hearing, the Cardinals and Ludwick settled -for an amount that was $175,000 over the midpoint. The outfielder also received the opportunity to earn an additional $100,000 in plate appearance incentives, which he later did not achieve. Despite a stated goal of 50 home runs, Ludwick dropped off to 22 during the 2009 season.

The next year, Ludwick and the Cards settled earlier – in January – at $5.45 million. St. Louis did not end up paying that entire amount, however. At the end of July 2010, Ludwick was traded to San Diego in the three-team deal that netted the Cardinals Jake Westbrook from Cleveland.

What does this mean for Freese? Perhaps nothing.

At this point, his exact hearing date has not been disclosed, but could be as late as February 21. I have been told that there is some secrecy in that MLB does not like to let the arbitrators know ahead of time which players will be involved in their cases.  Apparently, the arbitrators are given a schedule of hearings but the players’ names are not included.

I would guess that both sides – Freese and the Cardinals – would be relieved if a deal is struck soon. If that does not occur and they have to finish readying their respective cases, perhaps they could at least come to agreement before having to travel to the Valley of the Sun. One would think they would prefer to be preparing for the 2013 season in Florida, instead.

Then again, if one side or the other has dug in its heels, this could be the time the Cardinals’ 13-year non-hearing record falls.

Year Arb yr Player Club Difference Midpoint Hearing date Agreement Contract Vs. mid Bonus
Rick Ankiel 2009 third $3.3 MM $2.35 MM $950 K $2.825 MM 2/12/2009 2/12/2009 $2.825 MM =
Ryan Ludwick 2009 first $4.25 MM $2.8 MM $1.45 MM $3.525 MM 2/17/2009 2/16/2009 $3.7 MM +$175 K $100 K
David Freese 2012 first $3.75 MM $2.4 MM $1.35 MM $3.075 MM

Additional background information: In 2009, I presented the entire arbitration history of the Cardinals, which dates back to 1974, here. While there have been additional hearings across MLB since, the log of the Cardinals cases remains complete – as of now.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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28 Responses to “Can Freese learn from the Cardinals’ 2009 arbitration cases?”

  1. blingboy says:

    For some unexplainable reason, I have been wondering what uniform number Taveras will get this spring. Last year, as ‘Minor League Guy’ he had #91.

  2. crdswmn says:

    Mozeliak has announced a 1:30 press conference. I hope it is a Wainwright extension.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I also thought about a Freese resolution, but that would not warrant a press conference.

    • blingboy says:

      Well, poop.

      The season has to be up hill from here.

      Lets hope Garcia is miraculously cured. Glad Mo extended Westbrook.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        It is much more interesting than that BB ……………. They have known this for some time …….. as has Adams agent………… you guys just don’t seem to get whats going on here…….. Garcia won’t make May…….if he even makes March ………….. when the renegotiated CC extension…..the reduced price was put into the policy investment …………. They likely reclaim at leas 8.5 ………. and that is now termed profit………….. no dry powder in that keg………

      • Nutlaw says:

        So it’s interesting that Carpenter just gets to declare that he’s in too much pain to risk playing again for an entire season. I mean, I’m fine with that decision, but he still gets paid? Either the Cardinals or the insurance company or whoever basically get swindled in that situation. That two year extension was not so great.

        That said, who cares? Same with Berkman walking. Same with Beltran walking next year. There are plenty of young guys who need playing time.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Some guys get paid the big bucks when they deliver and some get it spread over a longer period.

        • crdswmn says:

          If you ask me, Carp has been underpaid over his career and so I don’t begrudge him that 12.5M. Not to mention all the blood and sweat and bodily pain he has given to this team.

          Sometimes Nutlaw, your warm and fuzzy thoughts just overwhelm me. 😉

          • Nutlaw says:

            The guy is going to make more money in a year of doing nothing than I’m going to make in my entire life. I reserve the right to call BS on giving up eight months early. 😀

            • crdswmn says:

              Wainwright did nothing for an entire season. Should they have docked his pay?

              So sorry Carp will be paid money that is not yours because you disapprove.

              • Nutlaw says:

                If you’re hurt, you can’t play. That’s obvious. If you want to give up trying, though, retire.

                Let’s not pretend that players are paid with money that comes from some rich guy’s bank account, though. All of this money is coming from the consumers (fans). Ticket prices, concession stands, television rights, fees and so on all come from the fans. Our money goes to pay these players – if we don’t pay to watch, then there is no money with which to pay them.

                And sure, some teams have insurance policies. Insurance companies tend not to lose money, though. If you’re cashing in too often, their rates go up, which still means that the organizations need to raise more money from their fans to cover it.

                • Brian Walton says:

                  Carpenter is meeting with the media on Monday. We don’t know the exact specifics of his agenda (despite someone on twitter asking me!). I suggest not getting too wound up on this at least until we hear what he has to say directly. He is smart and a stand up guy, but also emotional. In the case of news like this, it takes some reflection time. If it was me, I wouldn’t want Mo and Matheny to do my talking for me.

        • blingboy says:

          It does seem like there has to be another level to this that is not part of the public story line.

          The idea that Carp started throwing recently to get ready, experienced symptoms, decided to call it quits for the season, and the Cards are fine with it, just doesn’t seem realistic to me.

          That said, I’m OK with it because its Carp. He’s done enough. Better now than a month from now.

  3. Brian Walton says:

    Freese and the Cards have settled on a one-year deal but no $ available yet.

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