The KC Royals take a $3 million arbitration gamble

(Mandatory Credit: Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Gary Rohman-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Arbitration, that winner-take-all, no middle ground option for major league clubs and certain players not yet eligible for free agency, survived the tortured negotiation process and lives on in baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement. But the KC Royals aren’t rolling the arbitration dice with at least once important player.

The club announced via Twitter Monday evening that it’s reached agreement with infielder Adalberto Mondesi on a one-year deal.

Instead of settling, the Royals could have released Mondesi, traded him, or proceeded to full arbitration. But with today’s deadline for players and clubs to file and exchange arbitration figures—the one-season compensation the player believes he deserves on the one hand, and the club is willing to pay on the other—looming, the Royals did what they almost always do and reached agreement with their player.

While the Royals rarely release contract details, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports Mondesi’s deal is for $3 million:

Some will say that’s too much to pay a player with an unfortunate injury history and whose three most recent injuries limited him to just 35 games last season.

Are they correct?

Agreeing to pay Adalberto Mondesi $3 million makes sense for the KC Royals.

Why would Kansas City, a team renowned for its thriftiness, give $3 million to Mondesi, a player known for his struggles to stay healthy?

Because avoiding arbitration was the right thing to do, especially considering the club’s vision for him.

Mondesi, remember, overflows with talent and potential. He’s a five-tool player who, when healthy, can tear pitchers apart, wreak absolute havoc on the basepaths, and successfully make seemingly-impossible defensive plays.

So, the Royals weren’t about to free themselves of financial risk by releasing him, a move that would have turned Mondesi into an instant free agent before he was otherwise eligible to test the market. Nor were they going to trade him.

No, Kansas City has plans for Mondesi. For now, at least, he’s their shortstop, the key to a defensive alignment that makes room for Bobby Witt Jr. (third base), retains potential Gold Glover Nicky Lopez in the infield (he can return to second) and allows Whit Merrifield to plug the troublesome right field hole.

But the Royals wouldn’t be the Royals without watching their wallet, and that’s what they’ve done with Mondesi and arbitration. Without an agreement, Mondesi would have filed his compensation demand and Kansas City would have filed its proposal today.

Then, and in the absence of a post-filing deal, an arbitration panel would have conducted a hearing and rendered a decision requiring the team to pay Mondesi what he proposed, or Mondesi to take the club’s figure. No split of the difference, no binding the combatants to a figure the panel thought to be right, but proposed by neither party.

So the Royals, presumably at the direction of President of Baseball Operations Dayton Moore, did just what Moore has an uncanny knack of doing and avoided all risk by hammering out a deal with yet another arbitration-eligible player.

And with good reason. The club walked away unburdened by a salary it didn’t want to pay, obligated instead to pay one with which it’s obviously comfortable. It avoided the nasty financial battle and damaged relationship with a valued player arbitration could have rendered.

Mondesi might, of course, incur further injury or injuries. He could miss most or all of this season, meaning the Royals could lose most, or all, of the benefit of their arbitration bargain.

The gamble, though, is worth it—$3 million, almost a pittance by baseball standards, is the maximum amount another Mondesi injury can cost the franchise this year. And if it pays off, this latest gamble with Mondesi will be well worth it.

Next. Projecting Vinnie Pasquantino. dark

The Royals have avoided arbitration with Adalberto Mondesi.

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