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Arbitration Fallout: A Slap In The Face

In declining to offer arbitration to Jamie Moyer and Pat Burrell, the Phillies sent a message that they don’t want to pay too much for either party. They feared that if Moyer or Burrell would’ve accepted the one-year deal, they would be shelling out more than they wanted.

We’ve gone over the prospects for left field and starting pitcher. What I’ve seen is there really aren’t better options than Burrell for one or two years, and while Moyer is 46, he remains a viable back-end rotation guy. These are players you’d want back on your team.

One line of thinking that I agree with somewhat is that the Phillies shouldn’t be scared about spending money this offseason. Coming off their world championship, they should be sending a message that they’re prepared to defend their crown. By offering arbitration to Burrell and Moyer, they’re saying they could commit about $25M to these two. Instead, they’re saying they need to be cheap with them, and with others. They won’t be spending a lot of money this offseason.

Clearly dropping more cash to Cole Hamels, Ryan Madson, Ryan Howard and the other young arbitration cases is a bigger concern. Yes, the Phils are hampered somewhat by their young core. But by offering arbitration to Burrell and Moyer, what do you lose?

First, Burrell seems to want more than a one-year contract anyway. Why sign on for one year, have to prove yourself again for a big deal, put yourself in limbo once more? I’m almost positive if the Phils offered Burrell arbitration, he’d decline.

Moreover, giving Moyer arbitration is exactly the right idea. He earned $5.5M in 2008 and should get a raise for his stellar play. What’s one year at $7M? Wasn’t that the expected price, anyway? And aren’t you trying to bring him back, anyway?

And finally, just to throw it out there: Major league clubs won’t feel the pinch of the recession until probably next year. So why not spend some money on one-year possibilities now? Obviously the goal is not to trap yourself into bad multi-year deals, so what’s the problem?

What is lost

Now, what do you lose by not offering arbitration? First, you again lose the fans to frugality. That’s most important. Now fans are expecting a left-handed platoon in left field. Second, you lose a little good nature from Moyer and Burrell. I’m sure Moyer doesn’t mind too much, but the idea of arbitration signals in some minute way that the team wants you back. It has to mean something here.

Of course, you also lose the chance to steal a couple first round draft picks. The Phils at most could’ve had four of them if they lost Moyer and Burrell. Instead they’ll get nothing. This is the type of thinking that put the Phillies farm system below the average for so many years. This is the type of thinking that leads to high-risk first rounders, since you only have one shot to get it right. This is the type of thinking that leads to the Reggie Taylors of the world.

But back to the major loss: the fans. The simple fan sees this arbitration mess as cut and dry: Either the team is showing respect for Burrell and Moyer, or it’s slighting them. To the fan, this is a slap in the face to two men who contributed greatly to a world championship.

While I’m not big on acting sentimental, as Amaro put it, I’m all for making smart decisions. Do I want Burrell back for three or four years? Maybe not. Do I want Moyer back for a ridiculous amount? Probably not. But do I want to maximize the ability to win while minimizing long-term risk? Heck yes.

Silly move, Ruben. Silly move.

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