Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Osuna Loses Arbitration Case, Will Make $5.3 Million in 2018

The amount of payroll available for the Toronto Blue Jays to spend in 2018 just went up by $500K at the expense of one of their best young players, thanks to MLB’s fucked up economic system, and one of the key levers that keeps players from getting paid the full value of what they’re worth early on in their careers.

Roberto Osuna has lost his arbitration case:

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Hey, but don’t worry, he’ll make all that back and then some once he hits free agency — which is where players totally get paid, amiright? And where the league definitely won’t penalize Osuna because they’re concerned about his arm health by the time he gets there, three seasons of 65-75 appearances each from now. Y’know, assuming that these next three years see him pitch as well as he has to this point in his career, and reach free agency fully healthy as he is today.

He’ll be fine! And in the meantime, the Jays just added back half a Mat Latos worth of money to work with this winter. Everybody wins! *COUUUUUUGH*

Osuna had been seeking $5.8 million in salary from the club, a figure that would have left him just short of Jonathan Papelbon’s 2009 record for a first-time eligible reliever ($6.25 million), and puts in jeopardy his chance to break Papelbon’s record of $9.35 million for a second-time eligible reliever, which — barring an extension (or a trade?) — the Jays and Osuna will likely be fighting over a year for now.

I know, I know, it’s hard to get too upset about anybody having to only make $5.3 million in a year, but when the extra $500K he was shooting for now gets to go back to Rogers, that makes it at least a little bit easier. And then when you consider that, if you go by Fangraphs’ $/WAR calculation, Osuna has provided $48.8 million  in value in his MLB career, but that by the end of 2018 (at which point that number will be even higher) he’ll have made just $8.376 million? Yeah, that’s some bullshit. But then again, what can we do? Cheer on the players union in the next round of CBA talks, I guess. And in the meantime ust hope that the Jays actually take that money and do something useful with it. It’s not like there aren’t a bajillion free agents still out there to be signed, so I suppose it’s possible.

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Today’s news means that Marcus Stroman is the only arbitration eligible Blue Jays player whose 2018 salary we do not yet know. Could an extension be the cause for the delay in our hearing that? Maybe that’s possible, too! But I probably wouldn’t hold my breath. Stroman filed at $6.9 million (nice) while the Jays have countered with an offer of $6.5 million. The club won the arbitration case between the two sides last winter.

  • Regulator Johnson

    I think Osuna will probably be OK. Let’s not forget that even in this slow market, Wade Davis signed a $52 Million deal. Agreed on the principle though.

  • Shawkr

    I agree that early career players deserve better than the status quo, but a wider view of the economic arrangement is important here I think.

    True, Osuna will earn just a fraction of his value through his first six MLB seasons. But you can’t evaluate the situation without also remembering the names Jacob Anderson, Kevin Comer, Jeremy Gabryszwski, John Stilson, Tom Robson, Christian Lopes, Mark Biggs, Andy Burns, Matt Dean, Brady Dragmire, Derrick Loveless, and Jorge Vega-Rosada. But you probably don’t remember those names, because why would you? With the exception of Andy Burns’ brief visit to Toronto, none of those players has made it to the majors (and likely never will). They were all signed the same year as Osuna and received bonuses totaling $7.615M, not an insignificant amount. And this is part of the system: the (presumably risk-averse) amateurs get up-front payments plus several years of instruction and development, and in exchange the teams get big time upside risk.

    Of course that’s still a great investment. Any team would gladly sprinkle $8M around if they knew it would yield an Osuna. And I certainly wouldn’t disagree that the young players deserve much better.

    But I think it’s also important to think about who exactly is fucking the young players. Because it’s not (just) the owners. The current environment allocates something close to 50% of revenues to the players. But I doubt the owners care very much about how that share is distributed. If the MLBPA wanted to, it could divert more money to the early career players; they would just have to be willing to give up some of their piece (perhaps via a more aggressive luxury tax). But they’ll never do this because (like every union) they lobby only on behalf of existing voting members, ignoring the interests of future members for which they arguably have an obligation to uphold (e.g. not giving a shit about a hard cap on IFA bonuses). I’d find it easier to adopt a pro-player outlook if the union started looking out for amateurs and minor leaguers.

    And for what it’s worth, we all own a small stake in Rogers Corp.

  • Intwank

    It’s true that young players like Osuna get the shaft in the current system – especially if they get injured before they can cash in on free agency and recoup lost value from early in their careers. But Osuna hasn’t been hurt as much as the article suggests. Players’ “true” values are vastly overstated when using the $/WAR calculus from FanGraphs et al. $/WAR on the free agent market is inflated by the constraints the CBA puts on supply.
    Since Osuna’s current situation is precisely what drives free agent salaries up, then if we want to imagine what Osuna would get on the open market, we have to assume an actual open market and open it up to every player with less than 6-years of service time (and probably also the players who sold low on their first few years of free agency to lock down guaranteed money).
    This is a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but if you divide total 2017 MLB payroll by total 2017 fWAR, you get a $/WAR value of about $4.57 million. (Or, that’s what I got anyways.) This would put the value of Osuna’s 6.1fWAR to date at about $27.9 million. It’s still far more than he’s made, but it’s not nearly as egregious as $48.8 million. And if we take $4.57M as the value of 1 WAR on a truly open market, then Osuna’s 2018 salary of $5.3 million is actually quite fair value when compared to his Steamer projection of 0.9 WAR (which does feel light). If he gets Papelbon numbers in arbitration next year, he may at that point summit Mt. Fairness and find himself a beneficiary of the system that has hurt him until now.
    None of this is meant to absolve the owners – especially for their actions this offseason – or to take the side of those who whine about fat overpaid players. I personally would far prefer money in Josh Donaldson’s pockets as opposed to Edward Rogers’. But I wonder if a more open system would actually drive Donaldson’s salary down as younger players crowd out his market – which would especially sting for him as he’s put in his six years already.

    • DAKINS

      Way to miss the fucking point.

      I also saw somebody say that they think Osuna didn’t get what he asked for due to missing time because of his anxiety last season. This is also a terrible take.

  • Flash McLennan

    I know that ERA and blown saves aren’t fashionable, but: 3.38 ERA, 39/49 saves/save opportunities.

    Advanced stats like it when someone *emphatically* saves a game. Come in, strike out the side, no one gets on base, wow such WHIP and K/9! The problem with that analysis is that it’s not such a great way to evaluate someone whose job it is to take on a high pressure inning and not allow opponents back into it. This year, Osuna saved the living shit out of the game 80% of the time, and let the other guys tie it up (or worse) 20% of the time. That’s not actually very good. The guy who saved it pretty well 90% of the time may have not looked as good on the advanced metrics, but provided more in terms of realized value than Osuna.

    I love the guy, I think he’ll be great for years, but for a good chunk of 2017, he didn’t do his job effectively.