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Arbitration Rules Discourage Loyalty
2004-12-27 20:27
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

If you're one of the people sitting around why the Dodgers didn't sign Jose Lima for one season at $2.5 million, the way the Royals did, understand that it just wasn't possible.

In all likelihood, Lima would not have settled for that amount before the deadline for teams to offer players salary arbitration.

And, had the Dodgers offered Lima arbitration, we now know he would have accepted, based on the idea that the $2.5 million deal was his best offer.

And, had Lima accepted, they would be paying Lima more than $2.5 million for 2005 today.

As recently as 2002, Lima was making more than $7 million in a year. In 2004, he made $950,000. Arbitration raises for 14-game winners (including the playoffs) tend to be considerable. Had Lima gone to arbitration, you can easily imagine he would have ended up at a salary higher than $2.5 million.

Now, feel free to argue the merits of offering Lima more money or years to retain him. Personally, I'd have been wary, though personally, I'm now wary of the Dodgers' 2005 work-in-progress starting pitching in general.

But you cannot conclude at all that the Dodgers weren't willing to offer Lima what Kansas City did.

It is a peculiarity of the current system that arbitration-eligible players are encouraged to leave their most recent teams. Last week, 29 teams could have offered Lima a one-year, $2.5-million contract. The only team that couldn't was the team with which his rebirth continued - the Dodgers.

Watch something similar happen with Alex Cora - he may well sign a contract within the Dodgers' price range, but below the minimum the Dodgers could have expected to pay through arbitration.

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