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Coming up next for the Athletics, arbitration!

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A preview of the coming weeks in Oakland Athletics arbitration settlements, and an overview of the arbitration process.

Josh Reddick is probably the most expensive remaining arbitration case.
Josh Reddick is probably the most expensive remaining arbitration case.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics should be reaching arbitration settlements with most of their nine eight remaining arbitration-eligible players in the next two weeks, judging by last year's signing dates on Cot's Contracts. Josh Reddick was the last to sign last year for $2.7 million, on February 15, after the club submitted a $2 million offer against Reddick's $3.25 million according to the Bay Area News Group's John Hickey. Both Ike Davis and Fernando Rodriguez already reached arbitration settlements with the A's for 2015. Monday morning, after this post initially went up, Jesse Chavez settled for $2.15 million, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

This year's salary figure exchange date is January 16. If players and clubs have not yet reached a settlement by then, each side will submit to a three-person panel of arbitrators randomly selected by the American Arbitration Association what it believes will be a fair one year deal in the context of baseball's labor agreement. The player and the club can still come to a settlement right up until the hearing. Hearings are at present scheduled to be between February 1-21 this year.

If there is still no settlement, the player and club will make presentations to the arbitration panel in a session lasting approximately four hours. The panel will then adjourn to decide whether to award the player the figure the club submitted or the figure the player submitted. To encourage settlements and encourage the parties to submit figures closest to the appropriate value, the arbitrators must choose either award, they cannot split the difference.

Since Billy Beane took over the general manager's chair in 1997, Oakland has taken just two players to an arbitration hearing, according to mlb.com's Jane Lee. The A's won cases against Ariel Prieto in 2000 and Juan Cruz in 2005.

Soon after the Oakland Athletics were dismissed from the postseason in late September, I made some back-of-the-envelope calculations by trying to find comparable players. In November, Matt Swartz revealed the estimates his very accurate model came up with for the 2015 arbitration-eligible players. Below is a table for the 11 players that entered the off-season as arbitration-eligible players. Because Ike Davis and Brett Lawrie joined the team after my October post, I have adopted Swartz's estimate as my own for those two instead.

Player Swartz model My estimate Actual Notes
Ike Davis $4,400,000 $4,400,000 $3,800,000 I adopted Swartz's estimate
Josh Reddick $3,700,000 $3,700,000
Jesse Chavez $2,500,000 $2,400,000 $2,150,000
Brett Lawrie $1,800,000 $1,800,000 I adopted Swartz's estimate
Sam Fuld $1,600,000 $1,500,000
Craig Gentry $1,500,000 $1,800,000
Ryan Cook $1,300,000 $1,300,000
Eric Sogard $1,000,000 $1,500,000
Fernando Abad $900,000 $1,400,000
Jarrod Parker $900,000 $1,500,000
Fernando Rodriguez $900,000 $700,000 $635,000
Total estimate $20,500,000 $22,000,000
Total incl. actual $19,550,000 $21,085,000

I don't mean for this to be a competition, as Swartz's model really is very good. Indeed, I probably benefit quite a lot from Josh Donaldson heading to Toronto, as I had estimated $8,000,000 because it was extremely difficult to find comparable players that did not sign extensions that prevented us from finding out their year-to-year arbitration values. Swartz estimates a far more sensible $4.5 million.

Anyway, look to the next couple of weeks as we get a handle on the final salary figures for this year. As it stands, we're looking at:

Type # $millions
Contracts 7 52.78
Arb settlements 3 6.59
Nick Punto 1 2.75
payment to TB 1 1.5
Remaining arbitrations 8 13.0
Pre-arb players 8 4.1
Total 28 80.72

I'm only looking at players likely to make the 25-man roster or will otherwise earn the major league minimum salary of $507,500 at the start of the year. There are 28 such players because (1) Fernando Rodriguez is an arbitration settlement even though he is no longer on the 40-man roster, (2) Eric Sogard is a pending arbitration though he is at present projected to not make the opening day roster, and (3) Jarrod Parker is a pending arbitration though he will be on the disabled list at the start of the year.

A.J. Griffin and Raul Alcantara should also draw the major league minimum at the start of the year because players on the 40-man that are injured to start the year cannot be optioned out but must be placed on the major league disabled list and draw salary at the major league minimum. The A's avoided having to do that with Alcantara last year because he did manage to pitch at the start of 2014 before going under the knife in May, so he was placed on the minor league disabled list at the expense of losing that 40-man spot for the whole year.

So the A's sit on $81 million and there's still a slight chance at something more:

Compared to the $82 million the A's sat on for opening day and the mid-$90 million figure the A's had by the end of 2014, there should be some room to move mid-year if the A's are in a place to compete.

Further reading

If you want a good sense for just what goes into the arbitration process, I highly recommend you read the introduction written by then-Braves Assistant General Manager and now-GM-in-waiting John Coppolella to the 2013 mock arbitration hearing series put on Baseball Prospectus. The series proper began with a mock hearing for Chase Headley, and links to the other players are within that article.