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Olsen Signs For $2.8 Million, Avoids Arbitration

Pitcher Scott Olsen today agreed to a one-year, $2.8 million contract, becoming Washington's first arbitration-eligible player to avoid a hearing. Olsen had originally been seeking a 2009 salary of $3.5 million, based on arbitration numbers proposed last month. The Nationals were offering $2.5 million.

Olsen went 8-11 with a 4.20 ERA (33 GS, 201-2/3 IP) last year with the Florida Marlins. But the 25-year-old was dealt in November to Washington in large part because he was due for a significant salary bump. Olsen made $405,000 last season.

For the Nationals, the Olsen signing represents a negotiating breakthrough. Entering today, every major league team except Washington had come to terms with at least one of its arbitration-eligible players. Fellow pitcher Shawn Hill never agreed to terms and won his hearing over the weekend; Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham, also in line for hearings, remain unsigned.

Olsen's salary for the upcoming season puts him one notch above fellow arbitration-eligible pitchers Wandy Rodriguez (Astros) and John Maine (Mets), both of whom settled for $2.6 million. Olsen's agent, Matt Sosnick, and Washington General Manager Jim Bowden used those salaries as guidelines during the negotiations.

"I feel like it is a good settlement for Scott and a good settlement for the team," Sosnick said. "I think he is positioned really fairly in the process."

In each of the last three seasons, Olsen has made at least 30 starts and thrown at least 175 innings. He has a 31-37 career mark with a 4.63 ERA. This was the first year in which he was eligible for arbitration.

Had the Nationals been unable to settle with Olsen, the sides would have appeared at a hearing on Tuesday.

"Well obviously I was happy," Olsen said. "I think where we settled at was a very fair number in terms of if you look at where everybody else sort of slotted in. I've never been through the arbitration process before, so it came down to two days before we were gonna go to trial. I don't think a whole lot of people ever do want to go to the hearing, especially player-wise, because the team wins 60-percent of the time."

By Chico Harlan  |  February 8, 2009; 6:00 PM ET
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Next: Video: Acta on Hill, Johnson


This bodes poorly for giving Zimmerman a multi-year deal. They clearly do not do it.

Posted by: kevincostello | February 8, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Boy, talk about a team being a complete laughingstock of all of MLB. HAHAHHAHHAHAHAHAHHA.

The Expos brand new ballpark is going to be a ghosttown this season.

How many more days till football starts, expos fans?

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | February 8, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

I just KNEW that the first comment regarding Olsen signing was going to be a negative one.

I just knew it.

Posted by: MrMadison | February 8, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm still trying to figure out why so many folks keep saying, "The TEAM won't sign Zimmerman to a long term deal," or, "Why don't THEY just sign him long term?" It does not make good financial sense for Zimmerman to sign a long term deal right now. He isn't currently worth what he wants to make. I understand Ed's comment from a previous thread about signing him above his worth right now, knowing that he'll be worth more later (at least we all hope he will). However, I'm sure the team isn't going to pony up a deal in the Pedroia, Tulo, Youkilis mold until Zim has a season or two like one of those guys. And I bet the Rockies, after last year, are at least kind of second guessing themselves on Tulo.

What happens if they give him 6 years, 60 million and he completely tanks the next 6 years? I don't think that'll happen, but if they gave him that kind of contract based on his first years of service, which have been stellar in the field and suspect at the dish, and then he goes and becomes a bust, can you imagine the ire that would draw from fans?

I like Zimmerman just as much as anyone else, but let's just see if he's worth a big deal before burning Bowden in effigy for not signing him to one.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | February 8, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

By the way...Good on the Nats for getting this done. Hopefully is a harbinger of things to come for the other two.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | February 8, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Dmitri Young signs a non-guaranteed, minor league contract, and proceeds to win Comeback Player of the Year and hits about .335 most of the year, so they give him an incentive bonus that *was not in* the original contract, a few million dollars, which is a lot of money, but not for someone hitting .330, and no more than he'd have made anywhere else, if he'd done the same, with that team. So they paid him after the fact, because, hey, you don't want people thinking you're cheap.
Then he broke down again, as people with health issues tend to do. And the ranting about a crummy couple of years of somebody else's money just won't stop.

Now it's "Sign Zimmerman long-term!" Nevermind that it is just as much Zimmerman who won't sign as it is the team. You just *know* that if they signed him to a 5 year contract at an amount he'd actually agree to, and then blew out an elbow on some freak play, or it turns out that the last couple of years really are representative and he just isn't that good after all, the same folks would be screaming about how the team should never have tied up that money long term. I hope we never find out.

Posted by: CEvansJr | February 8, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

"This bodes poorly for giving Zimmerman a multi-year deal. They clearly do not do it."

Posted by: kevincostello

Yep, just as much as the groundhog seeing his shadow bodes poorly for giving Zimmerman a multi-year deal. Aren't you at all interested in seeing how Olsen will perform this year before spending on multiyear deals? The immediate goal of these negotiations was to reach a figure to avoid arbitration, in that respect it accomplished its goal. If Willingham and Zimmerman both advoid arbitration as well then I would certainly say that this will have been a succesful week. As has been stated many times already, Zimmerman will sign a multiyear deal when the conditions are favorable and agreeable to him. He can bide his time for now, without ill will directed to either side.

Posted by: driley | February 8, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

One advantage for the Lerners being "cheap" now is that when in the future it is necessary to lock up your home grown players that have established a relationship with the fans then the Lerners will have funds available to do so. This is one way that I read the long term fiscal part of the plan. A good example is the way the Braves locked up their pitching staff once it became established before the run of first place finishes. Once Dukes, Zimmerman, Lannan, Milledge and the young pitchers improve to become denizens of the upper echelon of players I would love for the Lerners to committ to the funds to retain them in DC. To me this is so much better than the Marlins approach, or the boom-bust cycle of signing aging free agents now.

Posted by: driley | February 8, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Great News! I got to meet Mr. Olsen during Natfest and he seemed personable and genuine. We already know he is young and talented. This is a good thing any way you slice it. I believe this is his first year of eligability. There is plenty of time for a multi-year deal. Olsen and Lannan should offer middle of the order stability for several years to come.

Posted by: natbisquit | February 8, 2009 10:03 PM | Report abuse

that would be middle of the rotation not middle of the order....

Posted by: natbisquit | February 8, 2009 10:04 PM | Report abuse

late to the kudos, chico, but thanks for the strasburg piece; superior in evry way possible.

Posted by: dhfrancoise | February 8, 2009 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps somebody from the Lerners are evil faction can tell me. What is it that you expect to be able to do?

You complain about many things. Some mis-steps, some implied cheapness, some actual cheapness. As a consumer, you can a) no longer buy Nats related items and not go to games and b) try to convince your friends not to do the same. What else do you expect to be able to do?

Launch diatribes on the blogs? Sure, it might matter, if they a) read the blogs and b) read the Washington Post (who they do not like.) launch a FireJimBowden website? Sure, it might matter, if they cared.

The only effect you can create is voting with your pocketbooks, but there is apparently enough people that are not voting with you that your voice does not matter to the Lerners. In other words, you can't force the Lerners to sell, you can't force them to offer a contract (any contract) to anyone. You have no leverage, in other words. Why give yourself an ulcer over something which you have no control? Isn't it saner (and healthier) to just disassociate?


Posted by: swang30 | February 9, 2009 1:50 AM | Report abuse

Chico - just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading the Strasburg piece over my morning coffee in the dead-tree edition (how 20th century of me). You did a great job conveying how ordered and focused he is - he seems like the kind of kid that could actually help the other guys - if Bergmann could have 40% of the laser-like focus that Strasburg seems to bring to his task, he might be a lot better. The extra morsels were good too - somebody tell Flores to add some padding to the helmet.

As for the Olsen signing, I amazed by the ability of some commenters here to turn every event into evidence of teh CHEEEP-ness. Olsen sounds happy with his deal, the Nats avoided an arb fight. What's not to like?

And the Zimm thing - it just takes two to tango. If Zimm thinks he's a top-5 3b in MLB, then of course he wants to sign 1yr deals until he has a breakout year so that he can redefine who his comparables are. One good breakout year, and it goes from "Ryan Braun money" to "David Wright money" - well worth taking the risk, especially considering how durable he is. As for the Nats, considering the numbers he's put up so far, it's a big bet to lay that he's going to suddenly turn into David Wright. He hasn't done it so far - maybe it will happen, but there'd be no way, if I'm the GM, that I'm paying that many years or that much money until I see some proof of it.

Posted by: Highway295Revisited | February 9, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

I like this deal. He's still young, a workhorse, and as a lot to prove. Perhaps being on a new team, he can be a 10+ game winner with an ERA under 3.50.

Or it might not work out, least it's not a long term deal with unknown results.

Posted by: FireBowdenNow | February 9, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

I like the Olsen deal as well - it looks to be good for both sides, and finally gets ink to paper for one of the Arb-eligibles. Let's hope the other two get signed this week.

Somewhat surprised by the lack on news regarding the 29 players who fall under the "renewal" contract category - a lot of their signings were announced in January last year, this year, nothing.

Posted by: BinM | February 9, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

There's a new post up, with video. Also, Boz had an A-R*d column in the dead-tree edition today.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 9, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

The goal of "launching diatribes" is to try to stimulate this ownership into investing, at an MLB level, in the future of the ballclub. The more fans who look at the investment level, and point it out, the better. Of course I've cut way back on buying tickets, as have many others I know, but speaking out helps too.

Is the Plan is intact? Prove it. Then we comne back as happy fans, looking forward to a great Nats' future.

As to Zim, the longer you wait on him, the more likely he will be to go the free agent route. As he gets closer and closer to free agency, he will realize that he wants to play for a quality organization, one that commits itself to winning. Why shouldn't he? Plus, the price tag goes up on him, the longer you wait. Sure it takes two to sign, so make him a suitable offer now, before he has a breakout year. Then, a suitable offer escalates considerably.

Look at franchises who have signed their youngsters to long term deals. They all took big risks (based on future projections), which many of you caution not to do. Was it worth it for them? Mostly yes, I would say. And most of the franchises that took these risks are low-budget operations, like the Nats.

What is more important to you? Risking money because Zim's elbow might blow? Or losing Zim? Take your pick.

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

I very much doubt that the FO makes decisions on the basis of fan comments posted to this or any other blog. As Jeff noted, voting with one's pocketbook is probably the most effective action.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 9, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

I agree: this is good news for both sides. The process works.

Lets hope that the other two hammer out agreements soon.

Gripers are never happy unless they have something to complain about.

Posted by: nattydread1 | February 9, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Agree that it would be good if the other two could reach agreement soon as well.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | February 9, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse


I was a happy Nats' fan to the point of being goofy, no complaints in sight, cheering every pop up, until the investment levels in the club's future started sinking in. But thanks for your observation. It does no good to complain. I am worried that we got stuck with bum ownership, but am glad you are a happy camper still.

Posted by: EdDC | February 9, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

While my growing disappointment with their lack of progress finally prompted this 4-year season ticket holder to opt out, my natural optimism got the better of me, and I cruised the Nats' website today for single game sales info, and found this:
"Single Game Tickets go on sale Tuesday, March 3rd at 9:00am ET! Tickets will be available for all games except the June series vs. the Red Sox, which will be part of a ticket opportunity launching in mid-February"
That last sentence really cements my loathing of the Lerners. I can't wait to see what this 'opportunity' is comprised of. If only they were as diligent and imaginative in fielding a competent team as they are at exploiting a marketing opportunity, we might have an onfield product worthy of the support they apparently feel they have to extort. I hate them.

Posted by: frozenRope | February 10, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

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