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An arbitration refresher

In most MLB cities, Tuesday was a significant day in the hot stove league, as teams had to decide whether or not to offer arbitration to their compensation-eligible free agents -- those classified as Type A or Type B (as determined by the Elias Sports Bureau). By offering arbitration to such players, their teams assure themselves of draft-pick compensation should those players depart via free agency.

The reason you haven't seen more about this deadline here? The Nationals didn't have any Type A or B free agents.

The good folks at have a nifty primer on this process, as well as a recap of everyone who was and was not offered arbitration by their current teams. For a team such as the Nationals, the significance of Tuesday's deadline is no small matter, since they now know which top free agents would cost them a draft pick to sign, and which ones (Orlando Hudson?) will not. It's worth remembering that, a year ago, it was the Arizona Diamondbacks' decision to not offer arbitration to Adam Dunn that led the Nationals to sign him just before spring training.

Finally, here is the list of all the free agents, along with their Type A or B designation, where applicable, and their arbitration status.

This process, which deals with pending free agents, is not to be confused with the arbitration system in place for players with between three and six years' service time -- the so-called arbitration-eligible players. There is a separate deadline, Dec. 12, for teams to decide whether or not to offer contracts to such players.

The Nationals have eight players who fall into this category: RHP Jason Bergmann, LHP Sean Burnett, C Jesus Flores, RHP Mike MacDougal, C Wil Nieves, LHP Scott Olsen, RHP Saul Rivera and OF Josh Willingham. (Flores, incidentally, fell just short of three years' service time, but made the arbitration cut-off as a "super-two" player.) The toughest call here is probably Olsen, who is coming off major shoulder surgery but might still merit a small raise over his $2.8 million salary in 2009 if they take him to arbitration.

Meantime, in the most dramatic thing going on in the Nationals' world these days, Dan Steinberg chronicles how John Lannan and Collin Balester are racing to get 500 followers on Twitter.

We'll have more towards the end of the week about the Nationals' offseason strategy, and Chico and I will both be attending the Winter Meetings in lovely Indianapolis next week.

By Dave Sheinin  |  December 2, 2009; 10:40 AM ET
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Next: A closer look at the Olsen decision


I can definitely imagine the Nats going into the season with Hudson at second, Guzman at short and Desmond seeing regular playing time at both positions. Then the rest of the free agent money can go to pitching (Notably, Wolf did not receive an arbitration offer.)

I leave the (entirely justified) comments on the time between posts to others.

Posted by: jcj5y | December 2, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the update and the promise of more to come.

Is there a story behind how the Winter Meetings got located in Indianapolis? It's not a major league city nor an airline hub (the teams held a one-day meeting at an O'Hare Airport hotel earlier this year, remember) and while I mean no offense to Indiana, the place is hardly what one looks for in a December destination.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 2, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Please God tell me that we won't have Guzman at short.

Posted by: soundbloke | December 2, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I don't think Guzman is their first choice, but unless they can trade him, which seems unlikely, I think he'll be here. The question is how much playing time he loses to Desmond.

Posted by: jcj5y | December 2, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Shiner, I didn't see this was posted explicitly in your note.

But regarding the guys like Bergmann, Burnett, Flores, MacDougal, Nieves, Olsen, Rivera and Willingham - the Nats have to offer them arbitration as per the CBA? Or declare them to be free agents?

That non-tender date is December 12th.

Posted by: comish4lif | December 2, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I could tolerate having Guzman around as this years Ronnie Belliard. No more.

Posted by: soundbloke | December 2, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

The fact that Scott Olsen could actually get a raise in arbitration is totally insane to me.

Posted by: rb-freedom-for-all | December 2, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

many thanks for the update, dave. but isn't dead man typing supposed to back from "vacation" about now?

Posted by: surly_w | December 2, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I was born and raised in Indiana, and I can tell you that Indy in the winter is pretty much like DC today, only 15 degrees colder and with wind. Nothin between it and the Rockies but cold flat prairie, baby.

Thanks for the post. Perhaps the long time between prior posts is because there is really not so much going on at the moment for the Nats. However, one hopes that will change soon.

Posted by: NatsFly | December 2, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

good thing I was sitting down when I saw there was a "new post"! I might have gotten hurt!

Posted by: 1of9000 | December 2, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Looks like there are going to be lotsa guys looking for jobs on one-year contracts this winter. Just saw where the SF Gianrs declined arbitration to all seven of their free agents. Doesn't seem to be good to be an early-to-mid 30s free agent this winter.

Posted by: leetee1955 | December 2, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Thanks much for the new post and the clarification on arbitration procedures generally. Will look forward to double-header (-headed?) coverage of the Winter Meetings.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 2, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

What's the update on Strasburg's knee?

Posted by: ruck202 | December 2, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Time to wake up the "Lerners are cheap" crowd:

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 2, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse


Look at the cities of the teams on that list in the article and DC is by far the biggest and richest city on there. They need to start spending and I don't think it is out of line to say it.

A Nats account rep contacted me yesterday to see if, I wanted to renew my 5 year running now, 20 game plan. I told her that I was waiting to see what they do in Free Agency. If the Lerner's spend some money then maybe I will.

Posted by: Section505203 | December 2, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

A new post, Hallelujah! Over/under on another one before Dec. 12?

Looks like there are some decent free agents who won't cost the Nats any draft picks. Let's hope the Lerners open their wallet and improve the team. FJB makes a good case that the Nats would be better off with Guzman at short and a free agent at second than vice versa.

Posted by: Section222 | December 2, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

"...Chico and I will both be attending the Winter Meetings in lovely Indianapolis next week."

Well, there goes the entire offseason baseball coverage budget!

Posted by: thepostischeap | December 2, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Rod Barajas? Isn't he the Titans kicker?

Posted by: AsstGM | December 2, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Wagner to Atlanta...

Posted by: Kev29 | December 2, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I tell you what, there are a couple of interesting players that weren't offered arb yesterday. I'd be okay if the Nats did any of the following:

* sign either of Bengie Molina, Miguel Olivo or Yorvit Torrealba to man the dish so Flores can take his time recuperating.
* sign either Orlando Hudson or Placido Polanco. At this point, Hudson's a better hitter, but Polanco's a better defender. If Dunn's at 1B, maybe it's best to have Polanco over there to help Donkey out.
* trade Willingham for a frontline starter, then sign Xavier Nady to take his place in the outfield. When healthy, Nady puts up similar offensive numbers as Willingham but is a far better defender.

Posted by: erocks33 | December 2, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

From your lips to Rizzo's ears, erocks. I guess the question is how many of these players would have any interest in playing for the forlorn Nationals. But it's worth a shot, and some serious cash from the Lerners, so we can stop being the "worst team in baseball."

Posted by: Section222 | December 2, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

The article and John Henry's argument (although he seems to come down on both sides at the same time) are valid, but...

Until a really nasty forensic accountant goes into the books of each club, there is no way that the numbers make any sense. That ain't going to happen, ever!

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | December 2, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I have a friend who is a Red Sox fan (how do I stand it?) who admits that Boston has taken advantage of its large budget during the arbitration process. They simply offer arbitration to every FA, then let the draft picks stack up if they sign elsewhere.

I'm too lazy to look into which of their players came from compensatory draft picks, but it makes sense. Another way the system tilts to the larger markets.

Posted by: JohninMpls | December 2, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Reason the winter meetings are in Indy, that sunshine capital of the Eastern Middle West North Central, is the same as why the GM's had their one-day fly-in at the O'Hare Hilton. The owners (and by extension GMs) want to portray this times-are-tough, woe-is-us image to Boras and Co., playing hardball early on free agents. Can you spell c-o-l-l-u-s-i-o-n?

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | December 2, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I thought the reason the Winter Meetings are in Indianapolis is because a Mayflower van pulled up on a dark snowy night and moved them there. Oh wait, that's the reason the Colts are in Indianapolis.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | December 2, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for the fresh posting and explanation. Respectfully, please understand that one reason some of us did not understand the arbitration process as it applies to the Nats is because it was not previously explained in the Post. Yes, no news is no news. But sometimes the report of no news is still news.

Perhaps the Post has placed a number of calls to Nats front office, players, and agents and still has no news to report. But, we're desparate here. Even a call to ex-Nat Brian Schneider would be of interest to many of us at this point.

Again thank you, but keep it coming.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 2, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was because Bud heard that Team Cinzano was coming to Indianapolis. Santa Maria! (And those bike shorts aren't really working for you, Bud.)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 2, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I am sure the Nationals are one of the several uncompetitive teams that John Henry was talking about in regards to maximizing profit while not boosting payroll with any substantial moves with the luxury tax money.

That said, they sure haven't spend money that well.

Of course most of that was under Bowden's watch.

But let's not repeat any of the mistakes we suffered through like Dmitri Young, Felipe Lopez, Austin Kearns, John Patterson, etc.

Among that list of arbitration players, the Nationals should offer a contract to Willingham but should let Scott Olsen go.

Olsen is a .500 pitcher at best whose fastball in 2008 had fallen under 90 and at age 25 might find himself in the position of being a situational reliever to stay in the majors.

But let's not overpay this guy and give him a raise to over $3M to pitch in 2010.

That would be a mistake.

There is a greater chance Livan Hernandez, at $2M would help this club by going .500 and staying healthy for the season than having Olsen do the same.

And Hernandez wants to be here.

Nothing but pluses with that move.

Posted by: leopard09 | December 2, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

there is something wrong with baseball, and a grave injustice to the fans, if Olsen is owed any type of raise as a result of arbitration. Contribute nothing and get paid more...what other profession considers this a good business practice?

We don't need Hudson...give Hernandez's time to young starters for experience - we ain't going anywhere with this team for 2-3 more years...keep playing the kids.

Posted by: outrbnksm | December 2, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

"Olsen is a .500 pitcher at best whose fastball in 2008 had fallen under 90 and at age 25 might find himself in the position of being a situational reliever to stay in the majors."

25 yr old lefty starters who have thrown 200 innings in MLB do not grow on trees. His fast ball fell b/c he was hurt. If they non-tender the guy, they had better have a very serious Plan B. This is no Sandy Kaufax, ok, but if he is healthy -- a big if maybe -- he's worth $3M in MLB.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 2, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

More potential bad news for any of us who hope for more WaPo Nats coverage: Goessling and Zuckerman were at least adequate competitors at the Moonie paper. If they go, WaPo has no competition and little incentive to improve.

Following from Talking Points Memo blog on rumors at WashTimes:

Two newsroom sources tell TPM that staffers were told a new plan, as laid out in the press release, would be instituted in 60 days -- early February -- and those who are not needed in the plan will lose their jobs. Staffers in two areas not mentioned in today's statement -- Metro and Sports -- are particularly worried.

Posted by: JamesWebster | December 2, 2009 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Unless those Moonie paper Nats beat guys are total idiots, they've had their resumes in for Chico Harlan's job ever since the minute he announced he was giving it up to pursue his metrosexual dream.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | December 2, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Shiner...nice work on Power Alley the other day with Seth. Your Lee Smith interview was solid.

Indianapolis is not the Bellagio, thats for sure. Hopefully the Indy elevators are as convenient for owner & agent access as they were in Vegas.

Of course Henry is including the Nats in his diatribe. The Nats, afterall, are the most profitable team and a have payroll half of BOS's. What Henry doesnt mention, however, is how he was able to acquire the Red Sox and turn the Expos/Nats into a skeleton of a franchise at the same time. I don't feel sorry for Henry one bit. If he has to put a little more in the kitty as the Nats try and rebuild into something respectable then so be it.

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | December 2, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

@LDO: I wouldn't blame Henry directly for the way that worked out - that was a Selig "sweetheart" deal all the way. IIRC, Loria surrendered what was left of the Expos to MLB for contraction, and flipped it for Henry's share in the Marlins - That cleared Henry to step in & purchase the majority share of the Red Sox.

But for Henry to now call out the Nationals franchise for profiteering from the current setup is, well, part of a problem that he helped create.

Posted by: BinM | December 2, 2009 7:32 PM | Report abuse

The difference between the Nats and the other teams Henry mentions (Marlins, Pirates, etc) is that you don't see the Lerners shedding payroll for the sake of saving money while they pocket the revenue sharing money, like you see those other teams doing every year. The only payroll the Lerners have shed is worthless players (Dmitri Young, Austin Kearns, etc) not budding stars just coming into those high-earning years. Indeed the Lerners have SIGNED such players, not traded them. Ryan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg are the two prime examples of this. Some people in their cluelessness will accuse the Lerners of being cheap, but such is clearly not the case. They are taking a team that was handed to them as less than even an expansion team would have been, and they are building it from scratch, through the draft. This is the strategy they and Kasten laid out when they bought the team, and they are following it exactly as they laid it out. This strategy does not call for indiscriminately throwing money away, and they're not doing that. But when money needs to be spent to further their strategy, they have spent it every time, without fail. Just because the Nationals payrolls have been low, it doesn't mean the Lerners are cheap. Payroll will be going up. Just you watch.

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | December 2, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

And hey, LosDoceOcho, what's "Power Alley"? Is that where Post writers actually do some work on occasion, which it seems they rarely do at the Post? Even as they pocket the salaries the Post pays them out of the subscription money fools like me continue to pay? Can I read Power Alley for free? If so, how do I get there (after I soon may be saying bye, bye Post)?

Posted by: FromTheEclipseThePlaceThatBobCarpenterCallsHome | December 2, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

I dont blame him directly either.

I just want him to get off his soapbox. He doesnt own the Royals or the Reds or the Pirates.

While Henry might be in the 16th largest market, his team still has majority ownership in NESN, which is a regional & satellite money machine.

The disparity in team salary is way greater between teams #1 & #6 than say, teams #6 & #27. Thats what he should be worrying about.

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | December 2, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

In hindsight, the Washington Times should have realized a few years ago that they were never going to be a national voice, and placed more emphasis on regional and local issues instead. Now, they may be forced to make deep cuts in the very sections that could have been their livelihood (Sports, & Metro in particular).

At least the Post has made earlier moves to retrench their efforts locally, by closing their outlying bureaus. Granted, it downgrades the "eyes-on" quality of the overall reporting by now relying on wire reports for feeds & column space, but leaves the paper better off in the long run, financially.

How does all this relate to the sports section in general, and to planet NJ overall? Probably not a whit - While both Zuckerman & Goessling seem to be good writers, with blogging capabilities, I'd be suprised if the WaPo hired a known entity from the outside at this point. More likely, they'll shift Sheinen back to general baseball commentary & the BI blog (if it survives), leave Boswell & Tracee as columnists (when the muse strikes them), and promote/"full-time" someone like Cam Smith, or CJ Holley to Nationals beat writer status.

My apologies for the long-winded venting, but the WaPo strikes me as being less able to go after "free-agents" right now than the Nationals, given their financial climate.

Posted by: BinM | December 2, 2009 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Heard the news from a good friend who left the WATIMES about 6months ago that the paper is hanging by a thread. Thats two bad because if nothing else the Sports section is first rate. No way Zuckerman and Goessling survive this, not when you have old Yeller Teeth Two-Ton Thom Loverro on the payroll. Its a shame that what little Nats coverage we get will be reduced by another 50% when these guys get their pink slips. Its just pitiful!

About Henry and the Money Pocketing, well over on XM-175 MLB Homeplate tonight, Joe Castellano and are old friend Jim "PT" Bowdoin were talking about this very subject. Bottom line is the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs etc., know how to play the arb game. If you can let A-list players go on the knowledge that you will get a first round and sandwich pick why not do it, stock the farm to get major trades done every year (i.e. Jayson Bay, Josh Beckett). Most importantly any mistake those big earning clubs make from a contractual standpoint can easily be absorbed and thier isn't much suffering. Try that with the Pirates, Reds, Marlins and even the Nats and its bankrupt time!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | December 2, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm with dfh21 on Olsen. Rivera is the only one on that list who should be non-tendered, if indeed (and I agree with From the Eclipse) the Lerners are not cheap, but spend judiciously.

Posted by: nats24 | December 2, 2009 10:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm in the keep Olsen camp. He's young, he's been good when healthy. He was even good at times last year when he was not healthy. He's tough. A healthy Olsen is probably the second best starter on the team right now after Lannan. Keep Olsen and acquire two more starters then you can start the year with New Guy, New Guy, Lannan, Olsen, Martin and finish it with Strasburg in the mix. Healthy Olsen is no worse than a league average #3 starter in the NL. Even if you lose arbitration you probably don't pay more than $4M for him. You won't be able to sign an equivalent arm for less than that.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 2, 2009 11:19 PM | Report abuse

One thing to remember, an arbitration eligible player can be non-tendered, and then resigned (usually at a much lower salary than he would get in arbitration). If the Nats want to keep Olsen, or even McDougal, they should be able to make deals like that rather than paying the ridiculously high salaries that tendering a contract would require. It's hard to imagine Olsen commanding much on the open market with his injury history.

Posted by: Section222 | December 2, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

That's true, Section222, but it's a roll of dice. I say the Nats make a conservative offer, and figure that Olsen's agent doesn't shoot for the sky, given the record, and either way, the Nats keep him. Otherwise, he could be gone.

Posted by: nats24 | December 3, 2009 1:10 AM | Report abuse

Nice to read baseball stuff in December. Thanks, Dave.

Posted by: JohnRDC | December 3, 2009 6:01 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of reading about baseball, I see that there's a new post up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | December 3, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

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