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When it Comes to Arbitration, The San Francisco Giants Do it Right

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 27: Manager Bruce Bochy #15 talks with Chris Stratton #34 of the San Francisco Giants both wearing nickname-bearing jerseys in the sixth inning of the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 27, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 27: Manager Bruce Bochy #15 talks with Chris Stratton #34 of the San Francisco Giants both wearing nickname-bearing jerseys in the sixth inning of the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 27, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Relations between players and their teams are boiling over. The slow off season and file-and-trial approach that some teams are using during the arbitration process are contributing factors. However, the San Francisco Giants continue to build trust with their players by avoiding arbitration.

The last time the San Francisco Giants went to arbitration was with A.J. Pierzynski in 2003. He is not remembered fondly by Giants fans, and the arbitration case was merely a precursor for things to come.

Pierzynski demanded $3.5 million, while the Giants countered with $2.25 million. The arbitrators sided with Pierzynski, so the catcher received $3.5 million in 2003.

Since then, the Giants have not gone through arbitration. Giants fans should be thankful for this. They nearly went to arbitration with several players, including Tim Lincecum and Brandon Belt. However, they avoided it by agreeing to a deal before the hearing.

The problem with arbitration in baseball is that it involves both the player and the team. Each party makes a case for why the arbitrators should side with them.

Or, to say it a little more clearly, a player and his representatives will state why the player deserves the salary they have suggested. Additionally, the team’s representatives will explain why the player deserves a different, lower salary. What a way to build trust, right?

However, the Giants have avoided arbitration since the days of A.J Pierzynski. Prior to a hearing, the player and team will exchange numbers. The player will suggest a salary that is higher than what the team will propose. The arbitration figures are a result of several factors including service time, statistics, and awards.

Once the team and player exchange numbers, they will have ample time to resolve before going to a hearing. Usually, the Giants and their players will use this time to agree on a midpoint between the proposed salaries. Both sides feel like they have won, and go home happy.

The Giants habit for seeking a resolution is not only about finding common ground, it helps in establishing long-term trust with a player as well. Nothing erodes trust more than a player seeking a raise, and a team telling them why they do not deserve said raise. These players will not forget what is said during an arbitration hearing. Similarly, they may even hold a grudge against their team as they enter free agency.

The differences in salaries exchanged during arbitration can be substantial. But, more often than not, the variance between the two figures is small. If the variance is small, it does not even make sense to waste time going through the process. It might irritate the player to go to arbitration over a small sum knowing that the owners continue to reap substantial profits.

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Teams have budgets to manage when it comes to their players. However, every team profits from their players performances. This comes in the form of ticket sales, concessions, and merchandise sales. Given this, it seems petty to approach arbitration with a hard-line stance, rather than seeking a resolution prior.

Many teams are using the file-and-trial approach, and this may come back to bite them in the butt. This approach is when the team and the player file arbitration figures with the expectation that a hearing will occur. This is a careless and stubborn position for many teams to take. It removes any likelihood that a resolution would occur.

Obviously, the Giants do not follow this approach. They are loyal to their players, even to a fault at times. In recent years, the Giants have locked up their key pieces to long-term contracts in seemingly easy and quick negotiations. The way they handle and avoid arbitration is likely a factor.

Going to arbitration does not preclude a player from staying with a team in the long-term. However, it is not a good look for the team. Throughout baseball, the relationship between player and team is beginning to boil over. As a result, pursing arbitration seems like an unnecessary process.

Next: The Most Important Player for the San Francisco Giants in 2018

At least the Giants have a history of avoiding arbitration. Whether it is an organizational philosophy, or just the stroke of good luck. It seems that the Giants have the trust of their players when they broach the subject of a long-term contract. All players take notice of this, and that is a good thing.

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