The deadline for teams to exchange figures with their arbitration-eligible players can be a contentious time. Luckily for the Tampa Bay Rays, all their hard work proved to be enough this offseason as they avoided hearings with all eight of their eligibles. What were the factors that led them to the salaries to which they agreed with their players?
This is our seventh piece in this eight-part series, and you can find the rest here. Right now, we’ll tackle Rays utility player Logan Forsythe, who received $1.1 million in his first go through arbitration.
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Forsythe’s 2014 did not go anywhere near as good as the Rays hoped it would. When they acquired Forsythe in the Alex Torres trade, they saw an underrated player with the ability to make a major impact for his team with his planar fasciitis finally healed. Instead, Forsythe got off to a disastrous start and finished with just a .223/.287/.616 line (77 OPS+) with 12 doubles, 6 homers, and 26 RBI in 336 plate appearances.
Although this isn’t particularly relevant to his arbitration case, the good news for Forsythe in 2014 was that he still hit lefties quite well. He managed a .241/.297/.411 line (99 sOPS+), and the Rays are hoping that he can be even better next year when he avoids an extended slump. Forsythe also played a solid second base after having some problems there in the past.
In any event, how did Forsythe’s numbers compare to other utility players’ performance entering their first arbitration year? Let’s take a look at the table.
Sorry for this table being a little bit small (you may want to zoom in on your browser for a sec), but I think it’s quite amusing. Instead of simply comparing Logan Forsythe to utility infielders, I compared him to every first-time arbitration eligible player since 2005 who had played at least three positions, made between 800 and 1300 plate appearances, and did not agree to a multi-year deal.
As you can see, we have a diverse group of players–everyone from power-hitting corner outfielders like Wily Mo Pena and Jason Lane to all-glove, no-hit infielders like Paul Janish and Alfredo Amezaga. Lane is even a pitcher now, and others like Janish and Josh Wilson also saw time on the mound. When we average everybody out, though, we get statistics awfully similar to Logan Forsythe’s.
Here is just Forsythe versus the averages on the table and his z-score for each category.
If you’re not familiar with statistics, a z-score is how far away an individual result is from the average result relative to how spread apart the results are from each other. The smaller a positive or negative z-score is, the closer a result is to the mean. We’re using z-scores because they allow us to compare Forsythe’s value for each statistic with one another.
In any event, average up all of those z-scores, and you get -0.116, which is just a little bit less than the -0.077 z-score that Forsythe recorded for payout. What is the payout with a z-score of -0.116? It is $1.086 million, which is as close as we are ever going to get to the $1.1 million Forsythe actually received.
With that in mind, I guess Rays fans can take solace in the fact that Logan Forsythe was almost exactly an average utility player even though he looked so bad. The Rays are still expecting more, though, and he will hope to deliver that next season.