WTNYJanuary 28, 2004
Twins go to Arbitration
By Bryan Smith

In the last two days we have talked about the high-profile arbitration-eligble players, and now we move on to the second-tier group. Three players from the 2003 Minnesota Twins, Doug Mientkiewicz, Johan Santana, and now-Giant A.J. Pierzynski all are disputing their 2004 salaries. Below is what these players are asking for next year, and in parentheses, what their team will be fighting for.

Mientkiewicz- $3.6M ($2.5M)
Santana- $2.45M (1.6M)
Pierzynski- $3.5M ($2.25M)

I was very surprised when the Twins didn't non-tender Doug Mientkiewicz, as prospect Justin Morneau is ready for the Major Leagues. But Minnesota is very high on their first basemen, who will rip the manager, the front office, the White Sox, whomever to make a point. On the field, Mientkiewicz has become a good hitter, and has lived up to the defensive compliments he's always received.

Last year, Mientkiewicz had 19.58 Win Shares, which was good for 3rd in AL 1B. His 17.15 win shares for hitting settled him comfortably in third, well behind Jason Giambi (26.04), but well in front of Kevin Millar (13.34). On defense, Doug was second in the American League at 2.39, only behind John Olerud in the American League. His on-base percentage (.393) was good enough for ninth in the league, helped by the fact that he drew the thirteenth most walks. While Doug doesn't have the prototypical first base power, his 38 doubles were tied for thirteenth last year.

Here's a list of six players that will make more money than Mientkiewicz if given the Twins amount, but were worse in terms of Win Shares:

- John Olerud- $7.7M
- Tino Martinez- $7M
- Sean Casey- $6.8M
- Ryan Klesko- $6.5M
- Jeff Conine- $4.35M
- Kevin Millar- $2.65M

There is no way that an arbitrator would rule in favor of the Twins here, it's impossible to prove he is worse than his aforementioned peers.

In Johan Santana, we're getting another example of a first-year eligible player trying to make some money. Santana is reportedly upset with the Twins about long-term negotiations, and a deal isn't promising.

Last year, Santana found himself on the leaderboard of a few statistics, and has become the ace of the Twins' staff. He finished 5th in the AL in baserunners/9, fourth in ERA, second in H/9 and second in K/9. Some of the names in front of him, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Tim Hudson, all dwarf Santana in terms of salary.

Johan finished 13th in the American League in Win Shares by a pitcher, contributing 5.3 wins (16WS) to the Twins. The only player in the top 12 even close to Santana's demands is fellow first-year eligible southpaw, Darrell May, who just completed a deal with the Royals. May will make 2.475M next year, more than what Santana is asking about. So if I were an arbitrator, the key decision here is whether or not Johan has deserved the right to make an equal amount to Darrell May, or should he make less?

While Johan has less innings pitched than May, he has won six more games, struck out 96 more batters, and walked seven less in the last two seasons. His ERAs (2.99 and 3.07) are far lower than what May has done in two years (5.35 and 3.77). Johan is younger, and has much more projectability than his competitor. If there is any reason that May deserves more money than Santana, than Johan might as well take the loss. But...there isn't any reason.

Finally, there is A.J. Pierzynski. Let me say first and foremost that A.J. Pierzynski is a left-handed catcher, and those don't come around often. Since World War II, Pierzynski's 2003 had the second best average ever from a LH catcher, the second most doubles, and the sixteenth best on-base percentage. A.J. has been the best left-handed hitting catcher in quite some time, and already has been to an All-Star Game. This is his first-year eligible for arbitration, and asking for $3.5M is highly ambitious.

Last season, A.J. Pierzynski finished fourth in the Major Leagues for Win Shares by a catcher with 21.58. His 14.74 Win Shares on offense sit right in between Jason Kendall ($8M in 2004) and Mike Lieberthal ($7.5M in 2004). But the killer in this situation is that it's Pierzynski's first time eligible for arbitration, and the Giants will be quick to point to Ramon Hernandez, who will make $2.375M with the Padres. Of the three cases in this article, A.J. definitely has the best chance to lose. Should he? Probably.

I'll be back tomorrow...