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Hill Has Arbitration Hearing

Shawn Hill today became the first Washington Nationals player to go to arbitration. Hill, along with his agent, Adam Katz, appeared for the hearing opposite Washington GM Jim Bowden. The two sides had tried to work out a deal just beforehand, but ended up about $50,000 apart. Based on numbers submitted last month, Hill is seeking $775,000. The Nats are offering $500,000.

The three-person panel is expected to make its decision by the end of the weekend. It must rule in favor of either Hill or the ballclub; it cannot compromise by selecting a figure in between the two proposed salaries.

Hill, 27, went 1-5 with a 5.83 ERA over 12 starts in 2008. The right-hander battled forearm and elbow pain all season, and was shut down for good after his June 24 start. Hill had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in September.

So far, the Nationals have been unable to come to terms with any of the four arbitration-eligible players -- a group that also includes Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen.

By Chico Harlan  |  February 6, 2009; 9:59 PM ET
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$50K, huh? There's some more grist for the CHEEEEEP mill.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | February 6, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm guessing that the Nationals' offered 625-650k as a compromise price, and Katz balked. This one is going to go in the Nationals' favor.

Let's hope the other three get settled outside of the hearings (RZimm, full asking price, Olsen & Willingham, compromise).

Posted by: BinM | February 6, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Give me a break!!!! for 50k, you need to start some goodwill for your own players... this is the kind of crap we need to avoid..... we need to start TAKING THE FREAKING HIGH ROAD!!!!!

Posted by: 1of9000 | February 6, 2009 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Just curious, BinM, you're guessing, based on what? Really, just wondering.

Posted by: CEvansJr | February 6, 2009 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Boy it sure seems like the $50k difference information would likely come from the agent as opposed to the club. But, whoever shares this info, I fully support the teams holding the line. There is a big difference between potential and production. In what other industry do you get 100% raises for 80% less production?

Posted by: natbisquit | February 6, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Seriously for 1 victory in 12 starts and a 5.83 ERA you think the employer should donate $50k above and beyond an already generous offer just because the player refuses to accept the offer?

Why do so many posters always go to the team is cheap mantra? You never decided not to buy something because it was overpriced? There are 250+ players in the organization, 40 on the roster, 75 invited to spring training, and they are supposed to give them all what they ask for just because they ask?

Presumably we are all tax payers, every government employee probably wants a little higher pay. Lets pay them all what they ask for so they don't think we are cheap.

Posted by: natbisquit | February 6, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

Tell ya what - all you 'cheepers' out there pony up the cash differences. That should solve all the problems.

Posted by: dand187 | February 6, 2009 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Hill should have accepted the offer, no way he gets the victory here.

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 6, 2009 11:31 PM | Report abuse

I'll tell him you said so.

Posted by: CEvansJr | February 7, 2009 12:00 AM | Report abuse

"Tell ya what - all you 'cheepers' out there pony up the cash differences"

We watch the commercials on MASN. We hear Slowes' IHOP ads. We have our hats and t-shirts. We buy $8 beers. We watch the playoff games that generate millions for the league which trickles to the teams. We have our accounts. We view and see the ads they sell.

No, I haven't spent $50K, but it's not going to take too many of us "cheepers" to make up the difference.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | February 7, 2009 12:54 AM | Report abuse

I only find this disappointing in that I had hoped the Nats could avoid arbitration hearings with all their players. I agree we shouldn't overpay anyone (FA or other). All the team can do is analyze the market as best they can and make what they think is a reasonable and realistic offer. If the player opts for a hearing, there's not a lot the Nats can do about it. We'll see what happens but I'll be surprised if Hill gets his 750K.

Posted by: grforbes | February 7, 2009 1:51 AM | Report abuse

As Ralph Kiner was famously told when he asked for raise after leading the league in homers for the lowly Pirates: "We can finish last without you."

Posted by: nats24 | February 7, 2009 1:54 AM | Report abuse

From the Where Are They Now Department by way of the Twins site:

Twins add Ayala to relief corps

By Doug Miller /

The Twins made a move toward shoring up their bullpen Friday, signing right-hander Luis Ayala to a one-year, $1.3 million contract, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

The newspaper spoke to Ayala's agent, Joe Longo, who confirmed the signing, which includes up to $575,000 in performance incentives. "He's happy to go in there and fight for that setup job," Longo told the paper.

Ayala, 31, made 86 appearances in 2008 for the Washington Nationals and New York Mets and went 2-10 with a 5.71 ERA and nine saves. He was 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA for Washington in 2007. The signing is complete pending a physical.

Twins GM Bill Smith declined comment, keeping with team policy of not discussing negotiations.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 7, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Getting to the hearing is always a failure but what is Hill thinking? You got offered more than the team's arb figure when you have a) barely pitched in two years and b) sucked when you did pitch last year. And you turn down an offer?? I think it was a vote of confidence in him that they offered arbitration as he might not have been signed by anyone else if they didn't offer it. I love Hill and I'm rooting for him but this strikes me as listening to an agent against your better judgment. Definitely predict a win for the Nats here.

They really need to avoid arb on at least two of the other three.

Posted by: Avar | February 7, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

The best argument for Hill's position is that everyone gets at least a doubling when they hit their first arbitration year. A lefty situational middle reliever gets over $800K in first year arbitration. He has shown some ability and, at least for a whle in 2007, was seen as a key part of the team's future. What the Nats proposed was just a 25% or so bump up. To adjust for his injuries, Hill came in at less than the normal minimum bump.

Don't get me wrong - they should have settled on say $575 to $600 with a few innings incentives that would take it up to $800K if he pitches 140 innings - but Hill has an argument that $500K is more of a low ball than $750K is high and wild.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 7, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

$775K not $750K. It's still a tough argument. Had he come in at $700K he would win v $500K.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 7, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

If the Nats can't make a deal with Hill over a difference of $50 grand, that's not a good sign that they'll come to terms with Zimmerman, Willingham and Olsen.

Good luck to Shawn and the other guys, make that old miser pay.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | February 7, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

PowerBoater makes a telling point.

A management willing to go to arb over 50 grand -- or even a couple hundred grand? The time alone isn't worth it, much less the alienating factor of hashing it out over the arb table.

Most GMs go out of their way never to go to the arb table. But we don't have those GM.

Posted by: AshburnVA | February 7, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse


My guess last night was based on the starting figures, and the assumption that Katz wasn't goint to drop his number much below $725k.

Posted by: BinM | February 7, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Luis "Gasoline Alley" Ayala has taken his arsonist act to the American League, signing with the Twins.

Posted by: leetee1955 | February 7, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

^ I posted an item on Ayala above, leetee (JiM got the groundskeeper and Ayala :-D).

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 7, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

"The best argument for Hill's position is that everyone gets at least a doubling when they hit their first arbitration year."

That's the same kind of thinking that corporate executives use to justify their millions of dollars in bonuses as they're laying off half their company. "Everybody does it."

Hill (or more accurately, Hill's agent) should have been glad he even got offered a contract, and taken what was offered. The $50,000 difference can go to Zimmerman, along with the rest of the difference between Hill's offer and the Nats' offer once Hill loses at arbitration. True, the Nats shouldn't be putting their players through arbitration over $50,000. But neither should the players' agents.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 7, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I think the handling of players in arbitration-eligible situations is a little different than handling players from the draft or free agency. In general, I feel like it is good to show some loyalty to your players. It is especially necessary for the Nats, because they can't seem to get much else going--terrible season last year, nothing happening in free agency. However, if players see that they take care of their own, it may help them in the future. They may have started going this way when they locked up Guzman and Young...taking care of the guys who produce for you.

On the other hand, Shawn Hill is a bit of a different monster in arbitration. He hasn't had a healthy year. Looking at jca's posting, though, the Nats may not be in the position many of us think they are. You can look at his stats and stuff when he's healthy, and we can agree they are nasty, and add that to the claims that he is, in fact healthy, and the Nats may be in a tough spot.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | February 7, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Every player situation is different. If Willingham, Zmmerman, or Olson missed arbitration by $50k I would likely feel very different. Each of them actually has a history of performance justifying their request. Certainly Zimmerman should not go to arbitration. If he won't sign a multi year deal, then find a number you can sign him for. Zimmerman is guaranteed a place in the organization. Hill is not. Willngham and Olson should both get paid as well. Zimmermann and team should not allow themselves to be separated by as little as $500,000 let alone $50k. But if Hill somehow wins his case, it will be an example of how arbitration based on past contracts cannot adjust to changing economics.

I've heard that all a player has to do is show that they are as good or better than a comparable player who recieved a contract of comparable value. A team has to show that the player is not as good as the comparable player/value. It will be interesting this year to see if arbitration decisions can add the dimension of time. Two years ago my house was worth $500k, now I would be lucky to sell it for $400k.

Posted by: natbisquit | February 7, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

nunof1 - I agree that Hill went in too high by at least $75K. What I was trying to do was make Hill's best case. The compromise should have been around $600K, + or - $25K.

I think the spread in arbitration might also involve a bit of mutual messaging. I think the Nats are saying, "you really don't fit into our plans any more than any replacement player. Our plans are built around guys who are on the way up and do not have an injury history. We'll offer you $500K as a flyer. You are unlikely to get more on the open market. If you do show us something, we'll laugh all the way to the bank and then we can go at it next year at real numbers." Hill's agent is saying, "Shawn's fine and his stuff is at the level of some of the best sinkerballers in the game. Sure he has an injury track record, but guys with fewer innings through first year of arbitration and more limited roles get in the neighborhood we are asking. Andrews says the arm is sound, so someone will buy."

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 7, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Cav - don't trust anything I post, including this.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 7, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

jca, you just stated the reason that Shawn Hill needs to fire his agent. No other team would have bought into him at more than $500K, and his agent ought to know that.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 7, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Just back from a little side trip to Cot's site. For the record, the Washington Nationals are the ONLY team in MLB that have not signed any of their Arb-eligible players; there are 21 players remainig unsigned, Washington holds four of them.


Posted by: BinM | February 7, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps we can borrow the old Mets nickname, the Amazin's

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 7, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

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