In his long tenure as the Tigers' general manager, Dave Dombrowski hasn't once taken a player to arbitration. As Bob Ballard writes, this might not be a good thing:
- The panel has to choose between either the player or the club’s figure -- they cannot select any other amount. The club will argue that the player is not worthy of the player’s figure which could damage the relationship between the player and team in the upcoming season.
So you might think it is a good thing Dombrowski has not gone to arbitration with any Tiger player. Well, yes and no. Yes, most of the players he signs are to one year contracts which minimizes long-term risk. But for a couple of players, Dombrowski has signed them to multi-year contract extensions and unfortunately, they have not lived up to expectations. The worst offender of this group is Dontrelle Willis.
Maybe if Dombrowski had waited and not signed both Willis and Robertson to contract extensions, he would have not been forced to trade away Curtis Granderson. He might have been able to give more consideration to signing free agent outfielder Johnny Damon as the Tigers desperately need a left handed hitter. Until then, we just have to hope Bonderman, Willis and/or Robertson can rebound and live up to their potential for the Tigers to contend in the AL Central. The Tigers have no other choice.
Consider: thanks to long-term contracts rather than arbitration, this year the Tigers will pay $34.5 million to Bonderman, Willis, and Robertson ... who combined for three wins last year.
Willis apparently is a lost cause, with Robertson not far behind (sorry, fellas). Bonderman's supposed to be "healthy" but it's fair to wonder since he hasn't pitched effectively since 2007.
Anyway, the point isn't that the Tigers are going to throw away a lot of money this season. That's old news. I don't even think the point is that Dombrowski should be more willing to go all the way in the arbitration process. These days, very few cases are actually heard by an arbitrator.
What Dombrowski needs to find is that happy middle ground between all the effort (and sometimes pain) of an arbitration hearing, and committing $10 million per season to pitchers who haven't earned it. Maybe he'll get his chance in a few years with Rick Porcello.