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Be glad the Guardians avoid arbitration with their star pitchers

Morning news and notes for Friday, Feb. 17, 2023

Wild Card Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Cleveland Guardians - Game One Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The fallout between the Brewers and Corbin Burnes is the worst nightmare of any team going into the arbitration process with their star player — a nightmare the Guardians are thankfully very good at avoiding.

Burnes, speaking with the media shortly after he lost his arbitration case against the Brewers, said the relationship between him and his team is “definitely hurt” from the whole process.

There’s no denying that the relationship is definitely hurt from what transpired over the last couple weeks. There’s really no way getting around that. Obviously, we’re professionals, and we’re going to go out there and do our job, keep doing what I can every fifth day that I go out there. But with some of the things that are said, for instance, basically putting me in the forefront of why we didn’t make it to the postseason last year, that’s something that probably doesn’t need be said. We can go about a hearing without having to do that.

That’s ... yikes.

Now, granted, if the Brewers waive the largest bundle of money in front of Burnes he’ll probably return in free agency when the time comes, but this certainly isn’t what you want to hear your former Cy Young pitcher saying at the start of spring training. Especially when the whole thing transpired over such a small gap between what he wanted ($10.75 million) and what the Brewers wanted to pay him ($10.01 million).

Was the public tongue-lashing from a star pitcher worth that $740,000 to an owner, Mark Attanasio, worth north of $700 million? Well — he’s comically rich, so probably.

Thankfully, this whole situation is what the Guardians have historically avoided. Most recently, they avoided arbitration with all seven of their eligible players for the 2023 season, including their own former Cy Young-winning pitcher, Shane Bieber. Things could have easily gone the same way with Bieber as they did for the Brewers with Burnes. Bieber and the Guards eventually agreed on a $10.01 million salary for 2023 — the same thing that the Brewers were trying to pay Burnes — and now the only spring training video we get of him is throwing off a mound.

Bieber may have ended up being a bit of a lucky underpay for the Guardians, as MLB Trade Rumors estimated him to make $10.7 million in arbitration. But MLBTR also estimated Burnes at $11.4 million, so his floor was quite a bit higher than Bieber’s. Cleveland also came in over a couple MLBTR projections, including Zach Plesac ($2.95 million paid/$2.9 million projected), Aaron Civale ($2.2 million/$2.6 million), and James Karinchak ($1.5 million/$1.4 million).

We don’t know what Bieber was asking for, but if they ended up going to court, the Guardians could have waltzed into the courtroom and spouted velocity dips and health history as a reason to not pay him his worth for the 2023 season (I like to imagine they would have also brought out an oversized chart showing his Baseball Savant orbs getting bluer over the years). It could have been Bieber coming out upset that his team decided to go to court instead of just paying whatever it was he was asking for despite all his years in the organization and his 2020 Cy Young win.

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