There’s nothing unusual about taking a player to arbitration over $450,000. In fact, it’s happened 10 times in the last five years.
But teams and players go to hearings over that kind of margin for the Brad Bergesen and Jerry Blevins-type cases that top out around $3 million, not for top earners.
What distinguishes Josh Donaldson’s case is that his request of $11.8 million is just four per cent more than the Blue Jays’ offer of $11.35 million. Relatively speaking that margin seems small.
In the last five years, 27 players have had arbitration hearings (via MLB Trade Rumors’ Arbitration Tracker). In every one of those cases, the sides were separated by five percent or more.
To be fair, there's always the bigger picture to keep in mind. Each arbitration case sets up future players, so teams and players both face some pressure to set up the next generation by getting the best deals possible.
But history shows that once the sides get this close in value, they've reached agreements instead of going to hearings. Yet another reason Donaldson's arbitration case is exceptional.
‡ indicates team won hearing
† indicates player won hearing