Why Raul Ibanez will decline arbitration
First, revel in the joy of not seeing Ibanez given an extension this spring, or as a distraction from the losing (back before we got numbed to it). At the start of the season I was sure it would happen, but here we are, debating if they’ll get draft picks out of him.
Anyway — Ibanez made $5.5m this year. If he heads to arbitration, he and the team get to face off for a one-year deal where they both make arguments about why he deserves $5m or $20m, and he walks off with one under contract for one of those offers. Unfortunately for the M’s, defense won’t make much of a difference in that hearing. So pick a number… say he comes out with $7m.
He can do better on the open market. Ibanez is 37, yes, but from 06 through now, he’s hitting .286/.351/.486. This year he’s at .284/.350/.472. Plus, he’s got a sterling reputation as a good clubhouse guy, a media-friendly face who always gives the post-game cliche.
Jose Guillen was younger, but got 3y/$36m for less. Or go back to 2006 — Frank Thomas got a 2y, $18m deal at 40. Or Aubrey Huff, who got a 3y, $20m deal in Houston. Carlos Lee got $100m! Heck, Luis Gonzalez was 40 and got $7m, Moises Alou was 42 and got $8.5m…. anyway. The outfielder shuffle this off-season could be ridiculous, and Ibanez could easily benefit hugely.
Ibanez will know that he’ll almost certainly get a better one-year offer on the open market than he could win in arbitration. But even if he couldn’t, what Ibanez is really going to want is a multi-year deal, and he might well get one. And as a free agent, he gets his pick of situations. If he wants out of Seattle’s losing, or if he’d prefer a more agreeable travel schedule, he can control that.
To accept arbitration, Ibanez has to decide that he’s willing to stick around for another year at all. And then he has to decide that any value he places on liking Seattle plus his agents’ best guess at what they can come out of arbitration is worth more than making more money and being able to pick his situation in free agency. And, further, he has to weigh the chances that the M’s, having taken him through arbitration, will cut him anyway, leaving him without team at some point in the off-season anyway (significantly richer, presumably), but with his options possibly quite reduced.
I’d put the odds seriously against it.
What if he accepts, the M’s lose arbitration, and they’re stuck with Ibanez for a year at, say, ten million (just a number)? They can either play him at DH, which wouldn’t be so bad, or release him and eat a chunk of the arbitration-awarded contract. Either way, that’s not such a terrible outcome.
If a team could pay that release number for a 50% chance at two good draft picks, the smart ones would all take it. At the actual chance Raul declines, almost every team would bet that money.
Take him to the end of the season, offer him arbitration, see what happens. It’s the right move.