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MLB’s Arbitration Process Mess Needs to be Revised

This past Saturday, we saw just how nasty and negative MLB’s arbitration process can be.

It was somewhat messy on all sides with Yankees pitcher Dellin Betances, but even messier in both Betances’ agent and the Yankees sides. From this point of view, there were no winners, and makes one wonder if the process needs to changed.

Betances, who is as nice a guy as one would want to meet, is as Yankees president Randy Levine (more on him later) a victim. Having spent a a decent amount of time covering Betances – especially in the minors when he was really attempting to find himself – we can say be is a standup guy.

He always answered questions about his trials and tribulations ,and always talked about getting better and finding a role, as he finally did in 2014 as the Yankees’  eighth-inning guy, setting up whichever pitcher closed in the ninth. Aa a closer, his results were so-so.

So, arbitration eligible, entering his fourth full season with the Yankees, Betances was hoping for a major raise over the $507,500 he earned in 2016. No disagreement there. Neither did the Yankees, offering what amounted to a near-600 percent jump to $3 million.

However his agent, Jim Murray, of  Excel Sports Management (previously Hendricks Sports) asked for $5 million. Murray, who represents several other Yankees players, reasoned that Jon Papelbon was paid $5 million entering his fourth season. The difference between the $3 million the Yankees offered and $5 million Murray asked for, was never bridged. Thus, arbitration.

We question Murray’s reasoning as compared to Papelbon, who had 113 saves entering his fourth season, while Betances only has 22. Betances has been an excellent set-up reliever throwing leveraged innings, but he certainly has not emerged as a closer. That was the Yankees’ take in all this. It is also an agent’s job to get the best deal for his client.

Why $4 million could not be agreed in as a compromise is, to this observer, somewhat baffling. It would avoided what was the biggest – and most obnoxious – part of this mess.

Betances lost his arbitration, stated the Yankees “trashed me for over an hour.” Having known several players who went through arbitration over the years, his feeling is not unusual in this contentious process. There is little positive about it.

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Chatting with Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, his, and most other general managers’ opinion about arbitration.

“It’s so much better to sign a player than end up in arbitration as far as everything goes in preparation for a new season,” said Huntington. “I really feel that way.”

Yankees GM Brian Cashman no doubt has the same opinion after Levine attacked both Betances and Murray, stating, “That $5 million number? It might has well been $50 million.” He went on to say, “I’m not an astronaut and Dellin Betances is not a closer.”

Levine is the one, shooting off his mouth as he does as the Yankees’ loose cannon, who is out in space here. Betances and Murray have moved on. Levine came off as an unprofessional gloater.

MLB ought to change this process. How about each side simply submit its case and let the arbitrator’s decide without all this nonsense. Each side will win some and lose some.

Huntington has the best solution. Sign the players instead.




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Written By

Have covered the Yankees and their system for over 20 years. I enjoy writing about future Yankees and where a prospect stands in the system. One rule: I only analyze and comment on prospects I have seen play and have talked to.

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