With Duke Cut Free, MLB Should Consider Fixing Arbitration

May 1, 2010 Los Angeles, CA..starting pitcher Zach Duke of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the Major League Baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium May 01, 2010 in Los Angeles, California..The Dodgers defeated the Pirates, 5-1.Louis Lopez/CSM.

Zach Duke - Louis Lopez/CSM (Zumapress)

With the news that the Pirates have designated Zach Duke, Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young for assignment, I’m reminded of a long-since-gone article I penned at the old Most Valuable Network site when the Pirates released Josh Fogg rather than re-sign him to a salary that was inflated by arbitration.

In the case of Duke, the article states Pittsburgh figured they would be on the hook for $6 million in 2011 for the arbitration eligible Duke (he made $4.3 million in 2010). Of course, he isn’t worth it and he won’t command anything near that on the open market. So, what has arbitration accomplished? Nothing positve. Duke, who has known just one organization in his career, is packing up and looking for work and likely staring at a pay cut. A community that has grown accustomed to the affable starter is, as Jerry Seinfeld pointed out, rooting for laundry.

Back in 2006, Fogg signed a one year deal with Colorado that paid him (according to baseball-reference.com) $450,000. He had earned over $2 million in 2005 from Pittsburgh. After a solid (well, solid in the sense that it was a typical year for Fogg), the Rockies gave him a hefty raise for 2007.

How about a fix? I would like to see an ‘offer sheet’ type of free agency for these types of players. The team that holds his contract can refuse arbitration and allow the open market to bid on him. The incumbent team could then pay some percentage over the best offer (say 25%) in an attempt to retain the player in question. But the player has the right of refusal. If he wants to move on, he can do so. If he wants to stay with his current team, he can do that as well with 25% more pay. The player, who is certain to have a decrease in salary, has a choice over new surroundings or a slightly smaller pay cut with his old team. Teams have better conrol over personnel and expense. The only loser is the union which seems to prefer artificially inflating salaries over maintaining some semblance of continuity in a player’s career.

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