In 1974, Major League Baseball introduced the arbitration process. Throughout time, the process has evolved, but boils down to some basic concepts for players and their teams during the early years of the player’s career.
As a player progresses through a team’s system, they eventually reach what has commonly become known as their “arbitration years”. More often than not, this applies to the third through sixth year of a player’s major league service time. There are some exceptions that create a “Super Two” player that allows them to gain an extra year of arbitration eligibility.
During this time frame of a player’s career, he and his team have the ability to continue their relationship through a series of one-year contracts. If they both agree to continue their relationship but they cannot agree on a dollar amount of worth for the player, they enter an arbitration hearing. At that point, an independent arbitrator will examine the facts from both sides and decide which salary the player should obtain.
As you can imagine, this is not a desirable occurrence for either party. Team’s have to construct a case as to why a player is not worth the amount they are asking for, often damaging the relationship between the player and the team. Ultimately, most teams try to work out a contract prior to the date for the arbitration hearing, in some cases, coming to terms on a multiple year contract that both the team and player feel are agreeable.
For the first time in the history of arbitration, every arbitration eligible player has agreed to terms with his team prior to needing a hearing.
While this is certainly newsworthy, it is hard to determine what impact it truly has on the game. It may be a sign of more teams looking to lock up young stars before they run into the problems that arbitration brings. It may simply be an anomaly of players that were more agreeable to terms. It may be a sign of the youth movement in baseball growing more.
For now, it simply means that every team in baseball can focus on Spring Training and the product on the field.