Blue Jays win arbitration hearing vs. Donaldson

Josh Donaldson

The Toronto Blue Jays won their arbitration hearing against third baseman Josh Donaldson, an industry source told Sportsnet.

Donaldson asked for $5.75 million in Thursday’s hearing while the Blue Jays argued for $4.3 million. A three-person panel ruled in favour of the Blue Jays, creating some short-term payroll flexibility for Toronto in a decision that will impact the third baseman’s earning potential in future seasons.

Regardless of the outcome of the hearing, the MVP Sports client would have remained under club control for four seasons, through the 2018 campaign. However, Friday’s decision will impact salaries for Donaldson and future comparable players.

Donaldson, 29, has yet to appear in a game for the Blue Jays. He was acquired from the Oakland Athletics for a four-player package headlined by Brett Lawrie in November, after finishing in the top ten in AL MVP voting in both 2013 (24 home runs, .883 OPS, 7.7 WAR) and 2014 (29 home runs, .798 OPS, 6.4 WAR).

CBS Sports first reported that the Blue Jays beat Donaldson.

Infielder Danny Valencia went to a hearing with the Blue Jays earlier in the month, beating the team and earning a $1.675 million salary for 2015. It marked the first time since the 1997 that the Blue Jays went to an arbitration hearing.

The Blue Jays are a file and trial team, which means they don’t negotiate one-year agreements after exchanging figures with players in January. Toronto’s arbitration cases are now resolved.

Player Years of control left 2014 salary 2015 salary
Marco Estrada 1 $3.325M $3.9M
Josh Donaldson 4 $500K $4.3M
Michael Saunders 2 $2.3M $2.875M
Brett Cecil 2 $1.3M $2.475M
Danny Valencia 3 $1.065M $1.675M

Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos says he’s hoping to add to the club’s bullpen, though the Blue Jays don’t have a timeline for their relief search.
Josh Donaldson on Twitter

Salary Arbitration Explained

Players with between three and six years of MLB service time are arbitration eligible along with a selection of players with two to three years of service time (called Super Two players). As players gain experience they see their salaries increase through the arbitration system, which was initially established by MLBPA Executive Director Marvin Miller in 1974.

Since the process was established before the rise of sabermetrics, it favours old-school statistics such as wins and RBI. Above all, players are compensated in proportion to their playing time.

Sometimes players become uncomfortably expensive, at which point they can become non-tender candidates. On those occasions, teams will release a player early instead of tendering him a contract offer through the arbitration process and reserving a roster spot for him.

Teams and players exchange filing numbers for unresolved arbitration cases in January, with the player almost always submitting a higher figure than the team. If the sides don’t negotiate an agreement after exchanging figures, they go to an arbitration hearing the following month. A panel of three arbitrators (people who aren’t necessarily well-versed in baseball) then hear arguments from both sides before selecting one side’s submission.

After a player accrues six years of MLB service, he’s eligible for free agency, assuming he hasn’t already signed a long-term contract extension.

Explanation via Sportsnet’s off-season glossary

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