Dear Internet:

I’m with you on most things. I will occasionally objectify a woman through your pages. I will repeatedly view videos of dudes getting hit in the nuts on your video players. And I’ll always engage in arguments that require me to embrace dichotomies and ignore such things as grey areas and middle grounds (name calling optional) through your social media.

However, I draw the line at criticizing the contracts  that arbitration eligible players sign with their respective clubs in order to avoid having a hearing before an arbitrator to decide their salary.

Over the weekend, Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus signed a $2.7 million contract in his first year of arbitration eligibility, and people were actually expressing an opinion about it. Now, I’m all for arguments in favour or against free agent contracts or player trades or even signing bonuses – it’s part of the bread and butter of this blog – but the amount of money that arbitration-seeking players end up receiving, especially in their first year of arbitration, is already so well-defined through precedent and performance that front offices and agents can’t help but work out a fair deal.

Yes, occasionally a team and a player will be far apart on how they value a performance, but small differences are much more common than large ones. The rule of thumb, for which exceptions certainly exist, is that a player’s three arbitration years will net them 40%/60%/80% of what they would receive as an annual salary on the free agent market.

If we take that rule of thumb and apply it to Rasmus, his salary in 2012 assumes that he’d make $6.75 million on the free agent market. This valuation assumes that he’d be worth just over a single win above replacement if we apply Fangraphs’ $5 million / WAR calculation. If we look at the first three years of Rasmus’ career, he’s averaged just under three wins above replacement per season. $2.7 million is a good and fair amount to pay for Rasmus.

And we shouldn’t expect anything less or more from a player’s first year of arbitration. This is how the entire process is set up.


Dustin Parkes