After avoiding arbitration with David Riske, the Indians exchanged arbitration figures with Ben Broussard and Coco Crisp.
The Indians submitted $2.2 million for Broussard, who countered with $2.6 million.
The Indians submitted $2.35 million for Crisp, who countered with $3.05 million.
If you're like me, you're wondering, (a) why Riske came so cheap, given the inflating market for quality relievers, (b) how Broussard can possibly command over $2 million in his first year of arbitration, and (c) how the difference between Broussard and Crisp can possibly be anything like a mere half a million bucks.
Both Crisp and Broussard benefit from a weak field in the American League at their positions in 2005. Among twelve AL first basemen qualifying for the batting title, Broussard ranked 7th in OPS and slugging percentage, so he can claim to be solidly middle-of-the-pack. Crisp ranked 9th in OPS among 32 qualifying outfielders and 6th in "batting." Keep in mind that arbitrators are not expected to understand complex statistical presentations. Both players have also spent almost no time on the Disabled List, which is also a significant factor.
In either case, the parties can still avoid arbitration by agreeing to a one-year or multi-year deal prior to the hearing, and the Indians have done exactly that with every player, every year since 1991. John Hart developed a strong distaste for the arbitration process and the hearings in particular, which was part of the reason he started locking up young players to long-term contracts in the first place.
Broussard has just over three years of major league service time and will be eligible for free agency after the 2008 season, assuming he doesn't spend more than a month in the minors. Crisp is a "Super Two" with just under three years of service time; he can reach free agency after the 2009 season.
UPDATE: Broussard's request was originally reported at $2.4 million but is actually $2.6 million, so I corrected the text above. The Plain Dealer reported the Indians' offer to Crisp as being $2.7 million, but the $2.35 million figure shown above, originally reported by AP, is the correct one.