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Star MLB Third Baseman Josh Donaldson Loses Arbitration Bid

Wednesday, February, 18, 2015

Newly-acquired third baseman Josh Donaldson lost his arbitration hearing with the Toronto Blue Jays. In a surprising decision, the arbitration panel ruled in favor of the Blue Jays’ proposed $4.3 million salary for 2015 instead of Donaldson’s proposed $5.75 million, despite Donaldson being considered one of the best young third baseman in the game and the cornerstone of the Blue Jays team going forward. Donaldson hit .255 with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs in 2014 while playing for the Oakland Athletics (and earning $500,000).


One reason for this surprise loss was Donaldson’s high salary request. In Major League Baseball, arbitration panels cannot advise on salary, they can only choose between the two proposals offered by the team and the player. When the difference between the two proposals is so large (in this case, $1.45 million) they look at comparable ballplayers. In recent years no other third baseman with less than 3 years playing time had been awarded as high a salary. This meant that Donaldson had very little statistical persuasion on his side.


However, if he had lowered his requested salary slightly, the gap would have been smaller and it would have been more likely that the arbitration panel would have sided with Donaldson.


Donaldson is classified as a Super Two player; most players are not eligible for arbitration until they have played three full seasons in the MLB. However, the top 22% of players with more than 2 but less than 3 years of playing time can file for arbitration if they choose.