This year, 196 Major League Baseball players who have accrued between slightly less than three years of service and six years were eligible for the arbitration process. Some came to terms quickly during the off-season. Most of the remaining eligibles settled on an amount with their clubs when the two sides were formally required to exchange their respective offers on a one-year contract on January 16th.
Two and a half weeks later, just 35 of the original 196 do not yet have agreements in place, reports MLB Trade Rumors. The 35 includes one member of the St. Louis Cardinals, outfielder Jon Jay.
The other four eligible Cardinals who have settled include pitchers Lance Lynn and Jordan Walden, both on multi-year deals. Outfielder Peter Bourjos and catcher Tony Cruz came to terms on one-year contracts.
That leaves Jay. The Cardinals have offered $4.1 million, while the player wants $5 million in salary for the upcoming season. One would expect them to meet in the middle and shake hands, but that has not occurred to date.
The delay is in direct contrast to last year, Jay’s first year eligible. Even before the formal mid-January exchange date, he and the club came to an agreement at $3.25 million for 2014.
With the 2015 calendar having been flipped to February, time to make a deal is running out. The next impending event is coming soon and will close the matter one way or the other. Arbitration hearings are being scheduled between now and February 21st. This year, those meetings are being held in Phoenix, requiring cross-country travel for Florida-based teams.
If it gets to that point, the arbiters will listen to both sides’ arguments and select one of the submitted salary amounts or the other. As one might expect, the process can become contentious as the team’s motivation is to minimize the player’s accomplishments.
In Ankiel’s case, 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. More recently, the Cardinals settled with David Freese on February 8, 2013.
There is no special reason to believe Jay and the club will not come to terms before having to argue their case formally. Then again, there must be some explanation for the delay.
If the outfielder is the one digging in his heels, one could guess why. One year ago, it appeared that Bourjos was being brought in to take his job in centerfield. That did not happen, as Jay put together a solid 2014.
Though Jay’s starting spot seems more secure than it was last spring, Bourjos has apparently resolved his nagging physical problems and will be back with St. Louis to try again.
Jay cannot become a free agent until after the 2016 season, so could go through this process again next winter, unless a multi-year deal is agreed-to now. Given the current delay, that seems unlikely, though not impossible.
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