Jason Motte is the last of the St. Louis Cardinals to receive a contract for 2012. It is fitting since he is the last man on the mound polishing off batters for the Cardinals. I’ll preface this entire post by saying that the Cardinals have not gone to an arbitration hearing since 1999. This also means that general manager John Mozeliak has never sat in on one of these hearings as GM of the Cardinals. I’m not sure he ever has sat in on an arbitration meeting in any capacity. I would suspect that the two sides will come to an agreement before a hearing takes place, but let’s see how a hearing may unfold between the two parties.
The Cardinals offered Motte $1.5 million and he requested $2.4 million when the two parties exchanged figures on Tuesday.
Motte had an excellent all around season in 2011 going 5-2 with a 2.25 ERA and 9 saves. He was very consistent throughout the regular season. In fact, he was the most productive member of the bullpen and it earned him the closer role in August. He ran with it through the post-season where he was untouchable in the first two rounds of the playoffs and pitched well in the World Series. As I mentioned back in December, Motte looks to be ready to establish himself as a top closer in the game.
The arbitrator would hear from both sides as to why the figure they came up with should be the one awarded. In MLB salary arbitration hearings, there is no middle ground selected. The arbitrator will select one figure or the other. So, there are two salaries Motte can make in 2012, $1.5 million or $2.4 million.
While an arbitrator would look and put plenty of weight on the most recent season when making a decision, previous seasons will certainly be addressed as well. Here are Motte’s standard stats with the Cardinals.
Motte’s agent would seemingly have an advantage here, at least in my eye. Looking at the stats alone, the Cardinals have been fortunate to have Motte in the bullpen the last two seasons. Maybe the Cards would pick on a decline in SO/9? Of which Motte’s side could counter by noiting he had a full walk less per nine and a minuscule number of HR allowed per 9. The team may try and reference back to a dismal 2009, but he’s been great since, almost making 2009 irrelevant.
In terms of comparable players to Motte, this could be the area where it would hurt him that he was not the closer the entire season. He may be viewed more as a set-up man in the arbitrator’s eye. Or the Cardinals will somehow try to portray him as such. But, he would have to be considered an elite set-up man so the argument would probably hold little weight.
Last season there were only 3 cases which made it to arbitration, but one of those cases may help Motte. Ross Ohlendorf beat the Pittsburgh Pirates last season after compiling a 1-11 record with a 4.07 ERA in 2010 and was 11-10 in 2009 with a 3.92 ERA. We know wins/losses mean little in the long run, but he wasn’t necessarily dominating either. Anyway, he asked for $2.025 million, the Pirates countered with $1.4 million and Ohlendorf won.
Maybe the Cardinals are in discussions for a multi-year deal with Motte because they know fighting this case is going to be difficult and he looks to be worth a multi-year deal to eat up his remaining arbitration years. There was little beating him on the mound in 2011 and there is little chance the Cardinals could beat him in arbitration. Again, all of this is pure speculation about a hearing that most likely will not take place. Expect the Cardinals and Motte to reach an agreement ahead of any hearing date. The only question is, what will the length of the contract be?