Upton is heading to Arbitration Avenue

 


Chris O’Meara/AP

As I  could hear the bell chimes ringing from the old church near near Williams Park in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, at high noon, you know that the echoing sound  could also be heard in the Rays front office on the third floor of Tropicana Field and provided a nice musical end the team’s revolving series of conversations with their remaining arbitration eligible player centerfielder B J Upton.

For it was now time for the Rays organization to regroup and prepare for their next meeting between them and Upton and his representation at his arbitration hearing. It was time for both parties to again refocus on the future where a single mediator will decide the future dent made by Upton in the Rays 2010 payroll. And at this time you can envision that there will be no winner in this round of talks, the Rays have a distinctive advantage going into this final round of discussions about Upton’s possible 2010 salaries.
 

And I kind of thought the arbitration situation might ultimately pan out this way only a few short weeks ago. Sure there was a chance that the Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman might have extended a multiple year scenario and salary figure to Upton’s camp, but in reality, he was always the one player who might have been banking on going through with arbitration during the entire unfolding of the process. Upton might have been the one Rays player who thought it was his time to be heard in private about his worth to this franchise…..And now he and his representative will get that chance sometime this Spring.
 

And some people call this entire arbitration mess more like taking a load of your potential future earnings to Las Vegas and playing a single hand of Blackjack, but never being able to doubling down, or even slightly predict the outcome  before the cards hit the table. And you have to admit it is always a crap shoot that your production numbers and potential earnings would mesh perfectly so that this process could be avoided at all costs. You end up put your  total expected earnings amount up for grabs and hope that the mediator finds your figures satisfactory and in-line with your request.

But you always  like your chances and gamble that the last minute paperwork to flow off that fax machine could  be acceptable to you as it was the the last communication from the Rays after their team imposed high noon deadline. And because the Rays have enjoyed a stellar arbitration track record (3-0) in hearings since Stuart Sternberg took over the team, you would think the “house” has the strongest chance to win here. 

The whole process is not made any easier in the fact that Friedman is getting comfortable in his Rays role in this arbitration process by using his risk managment style scenarios with  pin-point percision and submitting the right collection of statistics based on comparative peer player performances to end up  snatching  large amounts of moolah away from you as you stare blindly at him as Friedman sits at the other end of the table.



And it is not personal, it is business, the Rays business model in fact, to secure the lowest salary rewards to fine-tune and effectively reduce payroll and give some breathing room to the organization heading into the Spring Training reporting dates. Friedman has chiseled his own path to financial victory in all three of his prior arbitration hearing over his four seasons with the Rays. And that might make it seem  more like a “no-win” situation for Upton, but he is also left standing alone with a better performance based situation for a nice raise in pay than former Rays catcher Josh Paul, who fell victim in two of Friedman’s four past arbitration hearings. 
 

         
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You would think that the Rays would consider Upton is one of the face’s of their Rays 2010 team and placed  somewhere front and center in a collage on the cover of the Rays Season Ticket Information folder given out in December 2009. But the funniest thing happened here in the fact that the top four pitchers in the Rays rotation grace the cover of that folder, and not long time stalwarts Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford or even the arbitration eligible B J Upton.

Upton was the only player who I realistically thought was headed to his first arbitration setting long time before the Rays team imposed deadline. And both parties might have made some headway in their negoiations with the Rays before high noon, but the deadline passed without Upton batting an eye. As most of the long time Rays fans know, since Upton has been up with the Rays at the Major League level, he has let his  Major League contract be renewed automatically with a small raise every season before 2010, and Upton has not been open to public discussions about any multi-year salary extensions since the long gone era of ex-Rays General Manager Chuck LaMar reign over 5 seasons ago.

It might be a bold move, and one that might have to be calculated closely as Upton will submit his first arbitration numbers to the Rays at some point today. I think Upton will be seeking a huge increase in salary considering his 2009 $ 435,000 salary was sandwiched closely between Garza and Howell’s 2009 salaries, and both could get sizeable increases for 2010. This will be the first chance for Upton to get his significant increase, and I could see him submitting a number around $ 3.5-3.75 for 2010 season.

Upton is the one member of this season’s Rays arbitration class that was not going to give a local discount to the Rays, or even consider an extension before getting his first chance before an arbitration mediator this Spring. But sometimes a situation like this can back-fire on a player and it can get pretty messy if personal feeling get twisted during discussions. With some members of the Rays Republic and even the media thinking that this could finally be Upton’s break-out season, this series of salary negoiations might be critical to his survival as a member of the Rays.


Mike Carlson/AP

But then again, it could be a nice tactical situation by Upton to just see how important the team think he is to their future, and his position with the team in their future. I think his refusal to discuss his salary away from a mediator at a arbitration hearing has nothing to do with respect.  But it will certainly be a war of wrds and sharp minds backed up by volumes of pages of statistics and future output projections both met and missed by Upton over the past two seasons that could decide this issue.

Not playing at all into this he
aring will be that nice shiny American League Championship ring upon Upton’s finger as he  personally stepped it up a notch during the 2008 playoffs. But what is sure to surface is his step backwards in production after his shoulder situations in 2009, and his presumed attitude problems while playing in games. I can definitely see this hearing getting personal at times, and it might end up becoming a clear indication of the Rays hopes and Upton’s future plans with the team. The Rays could go hard on the megative factors in this hearing, or just sit and wait and see if Upton toots his horn a bit too loud, then come in and crash the party.

The funny thing about arbitration hearing is it should be about the player in relationship to his contributions on and off the field to his team. And should be a showcase to shop his ability to step up and and take it to another notch for his team, which would equal a request for an increase in salary. But most of the time it is a room full of lawyers and accountants with a pile of papers arguing for or against a matter as if in ta court of law. 

Upton should play a major role in the Rays  success during the 2010 season. He could end up being saddled with a salary that Upton doesn’t totally agree with, but still produce a stellar season and prove without a doubt he deserve some substancial coinage during his next arbitration round in 2011. But the reality of it all is that if Upton sees his arbitration salary as a  Rays power play and as a way for management to control him, he could produce either a break-out season or have another bust season and possibly be gone by the July Trade deadline.

But there is always hope. The Rays thought Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett ($4 million),Rays starter Matt Garza ( $ 3.35 million) and reliever J P Howell ($ 1.8+incentives) might be all heading also towards arbitration  before all three candidates agreed to contracts  in the last 24 hour period. Their multiple phonecalls and faxes ended up with a series of deals that please both the players’ and the Rays front office.

So the Rays last minute dealings have cut the field to one lone survivor and they no longer intend to try and convince Upton to see it their way. And with Upton basically announcing he will submit his numbers, the arbitration clock stops ticking for 2010. And with it last tick, it makes Upton the lone Ray player to step into the mediator’s office during the 2010 Spring Training. 

And the worst part is that all the information and all the number floating up at that meeting will have nothing to do with Upton the person, but be totally about Upton the team employee being considered for a huge fiscal upgrade. It will not be about handshakes or even hugs after winning key games, it will be about business, and that is something Friedman and his crew of fiscal mercenaries are pretty good at……..or so Upton will find out soon enough.

   

14 Comments

Let Upton and his agent play the game. Next year, the year after, whenever… somebody will eventually pay the price for potential. Doesn’t matter if it’s 2012, 2013 or later, B.J. Upton will always be a good defensive outfielder that will be an average off

Oops. Computer problems. My machine keeps blinking

rays need upton like my phils need victorino at CF/OF renagade hope the club gets him a good deal but save some 4 crawford cause hes better and a FA next yr

its a shame but money is really the only that drives these players. hopefully the dust will settle and both teams will agree on something reasonable. the pirates are going through the process with Zach Duke now. i am hoping for the best

http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com

rays need upton like my phils need victorino at CF/OF renagade hope the club gets him a good deal but save some 4 crawford cause hes better and a FA next yr

Bubbamark,
He is one of those guys you hope can live up to his potential. He has the abilities and the true baseball talent, but they have not meshed together perfectly yet.
But considering he has been adaptable over his career, you hope that this season he can bring it all to the table.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Bubbamark,
Sometimes MLBlog.com has some situations that are out of the commenter’s control.
This is one of those moments.
It is something we live with, and know that is being fixed as we speak.
Internet can be fun, even with blinking screens.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Tmas,
BJ has two more arbitration years after 2010, so even if he gets traded, he will have 2 more seasons of escalating salaries.
As for Carl Crawford, I hate to admit it, but if he doesn’t give the Rays a “local discount” he will have a new uniform in 2011.
I hate that fact, but we are beginning to see reality here as the two parties, the Rays and Crawford’s agent have not said word one about the situation.
Guess it will play out during the Spring and hopefully not during the season.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Matt,
The wild part it is it reported that the Rays and Upton might only be about $ 300,000 apart at this moment.
So basically for less than the price of a first year player at the MLB level, the Rays and Upton are headed to arbitration.
Only in America.
I would play for $10,000 (lol).

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Blogmaster,
Victorino has shown a better offensive performance than BJ Upton right now, but people forget Upton was an infielder his entire minor league career, and before he was drafted by the Rays.
But his shoulder injury/surgery before the 2009 season was not fully healed when he began to play back in the majors.
Not an excuse, but i know a shoulder situation can take a bit of power from your stroke.
But he feels healthy in 2010, so no more excuses.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

The Rays need to keep Upton Period case closed if they don’t keep him and Crawford they can kiss the post-season good by for a few more years.
http://lorcanmccormick.mlblogs.com/

Lorcan,
Wow! I would not say the post season ends if either of Crawford or Upton gets traded or injured. but their speed both on the base paths and in the field is key to any playoff options.
But the Rays also have an experienced playse like Fernando Perez in the wings, and a hot young talent named Desmond Jennings who could take over for Crawford if he leaves after the 2010 season.
Options to either player are in-house within the Rays farm system, just as leftie Jake McGee might be groomed to be the team’s next great closer……….You never know.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

All owners hate arbitration. They say it’s the biggest contributor to escalating salaries. The next collective bargaining session is going to be interesting to say the least.
http://THEBROOKLYNTROLLEYBLOGGER.mlblogs.com/

Brooklyn,
I think you are totally right there.
I think that former MLBPA Union Chief Donald Fehr got out at the right time before the collective bargaining agreement expired.
His idiot successor, Michael Weiner is already posturing about the arbitration process, which he is pointing fingers at certain teams.
Should be a fun time when they do sit down and try and iron out an agreement…..With this bozo in power, it might take a while.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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