Vinnie Pestano lost his arbitration hearing with the Indians this afternoon, and will be paid $975,000 in 2014, instead of the $1.45 million he asked for.
Pestano was one of the best relievers in baseball in 2011 and 2012, posting a 2.45 ERA (160 ERA+) and 10.9 K/9 in 132 innings. His 2011 was better than his 2012 though, and he was way off in 2013. He was named to Team USA for the World Baseball Classic, but suffered an elbow injury which may have added to his decline. He spent more than a month in Triple-A, and pitched only 2 innings for the Indians after July 28.
Earlier this week Pestano expressed a lack of enthusiasm for the arbitration process:
That points to a major reason the Indians had avoided hearings, their potential for souring the relationship between the two sides. I don't want to overplay that angle, but Vinnie will probably arrive in camp in a somewhat more dour mood.
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Pitching coach Mickey Callaway says Pestano altered his mechanics following the injury, and Callaway has expressed confidence in Pestano returning to his previous form, but It's not as though Callaway would come out and say Pestano is finished, even if he thought it were true, so there's only so much stock you can put into such comments.
The 2014 PECOTA projections are out, and they forecast a good season for Pestano, with a 3.17 ERA and 10.3 K/9 in 48 innings, while other projections have him rebounding from his down 2013, but not to the same extent as PECOTA. Those projections are based on weighted averages of a player's production in recent years, and there's a limit to how much a system can account for a player's health status though.
For the time being, my optimism about Pestano is muted.
The Indians had not been involved in an arbitration hearing since 1991, when they won a hearing against second baseman Jerry Browne and loss a hearing against starting pitcher Greg Swindell. After 23 years without a hearing though (what had been the longest streak in baseball), the Indians may not yet be finished with them this offseason, with Josh Tomlin (February 14), Michael Brantley (February 17), and Justin Masterson (February 20) all in line for hearings during the next two weeks.
Masterson's hearing is the big one, as the two sides are $3.75 million apart, the widest gap between any player and team this offseason. Because the difference is so wide, I expect the two sides to reach a compromise during the next 12 days, but we'll see.