Almost everyone who played in an ottoneu league got some upsetting news last week when arbitration results were posted. I, for one, was pretty unhappy to discover that Eric Hosmer was no longer on my FanGraphs Experts League team.
But I can take solace in the fact that I am far from alone, particularly when it comes to Hosmer – nearly 43% of Hosmer owners found themselves without their young first basemen as of November 1. And he isn’t the only player whose owners should be starting a support group.
Hosmer was actually the 6th most common player voted into arbitration. Jacoby Ellsbury (71%), Curtis Granderson (65%), Stephen Strasburg (65%), Jose Bautista (57%), Matt Kemp (47%), and Brett Lawrie (41%) were the other players who found themselves entering free agency in more than 40% of leagues.
This set is actually a great example of what to expect in arbitration voting year after year.
First, they are almost all reasonably young. On average, they are 26 years old, and range from 21 (Lawrie) to 31 (Bautista). The aging vet is rarely an arbitration candidate.
Second, they are mostly inexpensive. Only Kemp and Bautista cost more than $20 on average, and Hosmer and Lawrie were both under $10 on average. $50 players usually don’t get voted off.
Perhaps most interestingly, they tend to fall into one of two groups: veterans who saw a sudden improvement or prospects who lived up to the hype.
The first group (Ellsbury, Granderson, Kemp, Bautista) are all guys who we thought we knew. Other than Bautista, who inspired much debate at this time last year, these were all players who did things we either didn’t expect (Ellsbury’s power burst) or weren’t sure to expect (Bautista’s repeat).
The second group (Strasburg, Hosmer and Lawrie) are players who were highly touted prospects and, rather than fizzle, came out and played quite well. It will come as no surprise that Desmond Jennings and Matthew Moore weren’t far behind those three.
That said, there were some surprises. Clayton Kershaw was voted off in almost 20% of leagues despite having an average salary of $30 in those leagues. Is he likely to get more than $30 at auction next year? Definitely. But considering how unwilling most people are to spend on pitching, I would have expected Kershaw to be safer.
On the other hand, was voted off slightly less often than Kershaw despite having an average salary of just $9 in the leagues where he went to arbitration. I’d rather have Kershaw than Wilson in 2012, but a $9 C.J. Wilson is one valuable asset, particularly if he gets out of Arlington and into a pitchers park (or an NL park).
There was also a set of expensive players voted off – eight players making more than $40, to be exact:
Hanley Ramirez – $61
Joey Votto – $48
Tim Lincecum – $48
Prince Fielder – $46
Troy Tulowitzki – $45
Dustin Pedroia – $44
Robinson Cano – $44
Jose Bautista – $41
Maybe you can make an argument that some of those guys were deserving candidates, but looking closely at the voting in those leagues, it becomes clear that these were players who slipped through the cracks. In almost all of these cases, either very few owners actually voted or the votes were scattered and only one or maybe two votes were needed to get a player through to arbitration. In my article looking at voting strategies, I suggested you not cut anyone before voting, and this is exactly why. Is it likely the owner who had Ramirez for $61 was going to keep him? No way (at least I hope not). But now he gets a $5 discount at auction – a nice gift from his fellow owners. This is also a lesson in the importance of voting – many of these guys got through because only 1 or 2 owners voted. If everyone voted, the results probably would have been more similar to those in other leagues.
A few other surprising vote offs – the oldest players to enter arbitration were Paul Konerko, Aramis Ramirez and Johan Santana. Konerko and Ramirez are interesting cases because they have not stopped hitting. And Aramis, in particular, cost only $5 on average in the leagues he was pushed to arbitration. Santana, on the other hand, is getting older, hasn’t pitched in seemingly forever, and probably won’t command much of a price at auction.
And at the opposite end of the spectrum, two pitchers who haven’t even seen AAA were voted off – Trevor Bauer, who barely turned pro in time for voting, and Shelby Miller. And an 18-year-old who hasn’t gotten out of A ball – Jurickson Profar – has already entered ottoneu arbitration, as well. And they weren’t alone – 19 year old Nats phenom Bryce Harper was voted off in more than 10% of ottoneu leagues. Of course the beauty of ottoneu is that these guys have real, meaningful value in an ottoneu league – and it is actually hard to find too much fault with owners voting them into arbitration.