NEW YORK — Reserved for the better part of February for the contentious process of salary arbitration, the Ellis East Room on the second floor of the Hyatt Regency Phoenix went unused. For the first time since arbitration began in 1974, none of the players who filed wound up arguing their cases.
After peaking at 35 hearings in 1986, the number of salary arbitration cases argued hasn’t reached double digits since 2001. The total dropped to a record low of three in 2005, 2009 and 2011, and then there were none at all this year.
All 133 players who filed last month settled, gaining an average increase of 119 percent, according to a study by The Associated Press. Giants catcher Buster Posey, the NL batting champion and MVP, led the way with a 13-fold hike to $8 million.
“While I do believe that this year was an aberration, the salary structure for arbitration-eligible players has become more well-defined over the last decade or so as clubs and player agents have become more sophisticated in valuing players,” MLB senior vice president Dan Halem said.
Relatively few big-name stars even filed. Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum’s final two seasons of arbitration eligibility were covered by a $40.5 million, two-year contract agreed to in January 2012. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw agreed the following month to a two-year deal guaranteeing $19 million that leaves him with just one more arbitration-eligible season.
The increase for this year’s arbitration group was up from 89 percent last year but down from 123 percent in 2011.
In addition to Posey, big raises were obtained by Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters (11-fold to $5.5 million) and Cincinnati pitcher Mat Latos (10-fold to $5.75 million).