DANA POINT, Calif. — A discussion on salary arbitration between major league baseball officials and general managers and their assistants is the first official topic on the docket at the GM meetings this morning.
With teams more budget-conscious because of the downturn in the economy, arbitration may become a more important exercise in the coming years. Only eight cases went to arbitration last year and the owners won the majority (6-2) for the 12th consecutive year. The feeling is that there will be a similar number of cases this season.
The Red Sox have never been to arbitration during Theo Epstein’s time as general manager, and they usually come to terms near or slightly above the midpoint of the figures filed. They have two potential whoppers this offseason in closer Jonathan Papelbon and first baseman Kevin Youkilis.
Last season, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard won $10 million in arbitration — the largest figure ever given to a victorious player — while Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez lost a bid for $12.5 million and settled for $10 million.
Both Papelbon, who made $775,000 last season and Youkilis, who earned $3 million, could see their salaries approach that level. Until this point, the Sox have not been inclined to work out long-term deals with those players, but that thinking could change this offseason. The Sox gave Youkilis a raise from $424,000 in 2007 to $3 million in 2008.
Papelbon suffered a subluxation of his right shoulder in Sept. 2006 and since then has been on a strict program which outlines when he’s able to pitch and for how long. The Sox went away from that program over the final month of the season and the closer did admit to feeling “beat up” by the end of the postseason.
While Howard was the one everyone on the MLB side was watching in arbitration last year, the real “whopper” this season could be Prince Fielder, who is represented by Scott Boras.