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Reds VP Bob Miller on the arbitration process: “It works poorly”

Jan 17, 2014, 8:55 PM EDT

Mike Leake Getty Images

The Reds avoided arbitration with starter Mike Leake and relievers Sam LeCure and Alfredo Simon earlier today, but were not able to do so with starter Homer Bailey and flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman. As a guest on The C Dot Show earlier, Reds vice president Bob Miller (who handles the arbitration cases for the club) said that the arbitration process “works poorly”.

The full context of the quote, via Jordan Kellogg on

“It works poorly,” Miller said when asked how arbitration works.  ”Someone once said that it’s such a good idea that no other sports league adopted it, so that tells you how good of an idea it is.”

Miller pointed out some incongruity in the salaries of starters and relievers as well. “Here’s the ridiculous part: First-year arbitration-eligible closers make more than the best starting pitchers. … It’s out of whack, it’s a very poor process and we muddle through it.”

He’s not exactly wrong. Braves closer Craig Kimbrel filed for $9 million, which is the third-highest reported amount that we know of so far. A $9 million salary would be the sixth-highest among all arbitration-eligible players this off-season, behind Max Scherzer ($15.525 million), David Price ($14 million), Chase Headley ($10.525 million), Chris Davis ($10.35 million), and Jim Johnson ($10 million). It would rank ahead of Rick Porcello ($8.5 million) and Kyle Kendrick ($7.675 million).

  1. chukpark - Jan 17, 2014 at 9:08 PM

    No other sports league has control of player’s contracts for the first six years of service either. Arbitration is really just there as a last resort for teams and players who can’t agree. Most teams avoid it completely.

    • dan1111 - Jan 18, 2014 at 4:59 AM

      The arbitration process is a major influence on the salary of all players. Even for players who don’t actually go to arbitration, the salaries awarded in arbitration are setting the level a team has to offer them to avoid the process.

  2. paperlions - Jan 17, 2014 at 9:23 PM

    Cry me a freaking river.

    A team has control of players for up to 13 years. They can draft a player and not put him on the 40 man roster for 4 years, then he has 3 options years, 3 years at league minimum, and 3 arbitration years. Of course, that is the maximum….but that is a LONG time to control the salary of an employee with no ability of the employee to leave for greener pastures….considering how short the average career of a professional baseball player is….owners should just do themselves a favor and never complain about player salaries. There isn’t a single player that makes more playing baseball than the worst owner makes owning a team. Loria and McCourt have each made more money while being historically awful owners than any baseball player has ever made playing baseball.

    • jonrox - Jan 18, 2014 at 12:35 AM

      I don’t see him say anywhere that arbitration is unfair to the teams or that (all) players make too much. The written quotes paint a picture that the arbitration calculations are flawed so that some more-valuable players will be paid less than they deserve while less valuable players will be paid more. Certainly you don’t agree that closers should be paid as much as they are.

      • paperlions - Jan 18, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        True, but the salary control system is so unfair to players and so screwed up that his complaint is like me complaining the fairness of the tax code by pointing out that having children increases a burden on society (uses more tax dollars) yet there is a deduction for having kids, which makes no sense. Within the context of how screwed up the tax system is, that is a minor issue.

  3. tjwilliams - Jan 17, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    I’m sure the players’ union would gladly give up arbitration in exchange for 4-5 year rookie contracts like the NBA and NFL have.

  4. ptfu - Jan 17, 2014 at 10:15 PM

    And for those arb cases that actually do reach a hearing, ballclubs have to argue against their own players. Essentially they have to make a case about how terrible and useless their guy is. It can’t be fun to hear your employer tear you down, knowing you have to work for them no matter what, and it won’t inspire the player into superior performance or signing a long term deal with the club. Best for everyone to avoid arb.

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