For years, the Jays took their streak of not busting their players' balls in arbitration hearings as a symbol of their enlightened virtue. And being that we're all a bunch of overly polite Canadians, we probably liked it that way. Those are our guys, so why do we want to be something less than accommodating to them?
(And pause now to link to Jeremy Sandler's NatPost piece from late last night which kicked off this whole line of thinking. Lest you think we have an idea of our own.)
With the deadline for avoiding hearings creeping up fast, and the Jays still holding the line on an MLB-high nine players, it seems to us that the front office has a different view on how to approach the process, and how nice is too nice. (Now, cue all of the signings avoiding the arb process dropping on one day. Boom!)
If the Jays front office does indeed continue to be slightly unconventional in their approach (and the Miguel Olivo deal certainly qualifies as that), then maybe there's something to taking a new path to purchasing the players' services.
Certainly, on the top end, the Jays are faced with an unprecedented issue with José Bautista's contract for next year. His otherworldly 2010 campaign may well force the Jays into a hearing, because really, how the hell do you square away the rest of his career with that one season?
The really interesting question is whether if the team will go to arbitration with some of the more marginal cases, and if so, what do they see as the advantage to such an approach? Niceness aside, is there really any advantage to the team staying away from the arbitration hearing? And what's to be gained by the team by going this route?
The past approach to arbitration seemed to have been one of ensuring that the players were appeased and that a few hundred thousand bucks here or there would suffice to ballast the boat. But a $100K here and $200K there, and pretty soon, you're talking real money. The sort of money that the Jays may be more interested in spending on the multitude of draft picks coming this June rather than their seventh bullpen arm and fourth outfielder.
Moreover, this front office seems to be the sort who wouldn't avoid the arbitrator's room if they thought that they could win. Given the amount of time and resources that have been dedicated to the knowledge and reconnaissance aspects of running the Jays over the past 16 months, we would at least imagine that they would know which cases they could go in and win, and from which awards they might need to walk away.
We're not wanting to present this like we know what the team (or the very polite and kindly Alex Anthopoulos) is thinking, but we wouldn't be opposed to the team taking an approach to this process that is something other than what the orthodoxy would suggest they adhere to, if only to see what the result looks like.