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Will the Giants ever go to arbitration again?

The Giants haven’t had an arbitration hearing in more than a decade. Good.

Giants v Cubs Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Giants have signed all six of their arbitration-eligible players, according to the official SF Giants Twitter account. This is not a surprise. The Giants have signed all of their arb-eligible players for 13 years now. And it doesn’t look like that organizational philosophy is going to change any time soon.

Back in 2004, the Giants and their representatives sat down with A.J. Pierzynski and his representatives. A panel of impartial arbitrators were in the room, and they listened to both sides explain why Pierzynski was more or less valuable than the other side thought. He wanted $3.5 million. The Giants were offering $2.25 million — a huge gap.

Pierzynski won.

ARBITRATORS: It is our conclusion, then, that Pierzynski is one of the best players ever to play with a butt for a face, and should be paid accordingly.

GIANTS: Wait, the question was if he was one of the better catchers, not ... the other part.

ARBITRATORS: Oh. Oh, dear. This is awkward. But we used a gavel after announcing that, so, uh, we’ll see you later.

In that hearing, the Giants almost certainly used statistics to present a thorough case of why Pierzynski just wasn’t very good. He had to listen to it. This was his first introduction to the team, more or less. It was the start of an ugly, combative year that ended with the Giants declining to offer him arbitration the next year. They either couldn’t trade him, or they didn’t bother to try.

He played 13 more seasons, of course. The White Sox didn’t have the same problems with his cheekiness, and they kept bringing him back. Whatever bothered the Giants about Pierzynski wasn’t something that bothered his other teams, considering they generally liked him, he begrudgingly admits with great shame.

Since then, the Giants have not made it to arbitration with any other player. This is an impressive record. What’s notable is that the Giants don’t appear to be paying more to settle their cases than one would expect. MLB Trade Rumors has been providing arbitration estimates for years, and they’re extraordinarily accurate with them.

Here’s what they predicted for the Giants’ arb-eligible players:

  • Eduardo Nuñez – $4.4M
  • Conor Gillaspie – $900K
  • George Kontos – $1.7M
  • Will Smith – $2.3M
  • Cory Gearrin – $1.1M
  • Ehire Adrianza – $508K

And here’s what those players got:

  • Nuñez – $4.2M
  • Gillaspie – $1.4M
  • Kontos – $1.75M
  • Smith – $2.5M
  • Gearrin – $1.05M
  • Adrianza – $600K

So it’s not like agents are using the Giants’ own reluctance to go to arbitration against them. Some get a little more, some get a little less, just like every team every offseason. Even if they were paying a little more, the team would probably be right to prefer the extra salary to the hard feelings of arbitration, not to mention the extra resources that have to go into a hearing, research and analysis that could be applied toward building a better roster and winning baseball games.

The question now is when we’ll see another Giants arbitration case. Remember that the Giants had a historically tough player to gauge, a young player who had already won two Cy Young Awards, which was unprecedented. They ended up settling in the lobby of where they were having the hearings, just before arbitration was about to begin. That’s a remarkable commitment to avoiding arbitration, even in the toughest case.

My guess? It’s not going to happen with this front office. Not unless there’s some young goofball with a wildly inflated sense of self-worth and an agent who pushes the Giants’ philosophy too far. The second coming of A.J. Pierzynski, then. Just as the Book of Revelations foretold.

Until then, the Giants will keep settling with their players and finding the middle ground. As far as organizational philosophies go, this is an understandable and soothing one. Conflict is overrated.

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