Perez wins arbitration case
Hearing was first for Mets since Cone's 16 years ago
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The blank canvas that often is the expression of Oliver Perez appeared to have been punctured on Friday morning, defaced by some madman who had cut a smile where only stoicism had been. A decidedly richer man, Perez was a noticeably happier man as well. And a panel of three arbitrators had made his day, not to mention changed his tax bracket.
The Mets pitcher had prevailed in a salary-arbitration case and been awarded a substantial raise -- from the $2.325 million he earned last season to the $6.5 million he had sought in the process that both players and clubs regard as a crapshoot. The panel of Steven Wolf, Robert Bailey and Elizabeth Neumeier concluded that Perez's value was at least one dollar greater than the midpoint between $6.5 million and the $4.725 million proposal the Mets submitted last month.
As a result, the Mets' first foray into arbitration since 1992 -- only the Indians had gone longer without a case going to hearing -- ended in defeat, and Perez became the eighth Mets player to prevail in such a confrontation. David Cone, whose case in '92 had been the most recent involving the Mets, twice had prevailed. The club has won 11 cases. Its first was in 1979, when the difference between its proposal and the player's was merely $28,000.
"I'm happy now," Perez said. "Now I can prepare [for the season]."
Perez's award is the highest for a Mets player; it would have been even if the club had prevailed. Cone's award in 1992 was $4.25 million.
The 26-year-old left-handed pitcher, now less than a season -- in terms of Major League service -- short of eligibility for free agency, established a career high in victories (15), made 29 starts, pitched 177 innings and produced a 3.56 ERA in 2007, his first full season with the Mets. Of the three Mets pitchers who qualified for the ERA crown, he had the lowest ERA.
Yet his season hardly was one of consistency and, in that way, reflected his career.
The Mets' case, argued by general counsel David Cohen, focused on inconsistency. Perez's agent, Scott Boras, as experienced in arbitration cases as any representative, argued that the compensation for pitchers with service and achievement comparable to Perez's, had increased enough that the Mets' proposal was lacking.
Mets' arbitration cases
|Players won nine cases; the club won 11.|
Boras, who now has prevailed in 19 of 45 cases, used Erik Bedard, recently traded from the Orioles to the Mariners, as a Perez comparable in his presentation. Bedard's salary at a corresponding career point, was $7 million. The Mets presented Tomo Ohka, Jason Marquis and, primarily, Brad Penny ($5.125 million) as Perez comparables.
The panel doesn't provide a written decision to either party. It merely informs both parties of its conclusion.
Neither Perez nor John Ricco, the Mets' assistant general manager who attended the four-hour hearing in St. Petersburg on Thursday afternoon, thought the hearing had become even marginally contentious, though hearings sometimes do.
"I understand how this business is," the player said. Boras and the club had prepared him. Perez attended, but he didn't participate in the hearing.
Ricco, who formerly had worked as the director of contract and salary administration for the league office, had been involved in scores of arbitration cases. He noted the Mets' loss in the Perez case was not without a benefit for the club.
"When you haven't gone [to a hearing] for as long as we have," Ricco said, "[players] may start to think they can come in at any number. So we accomplished that much."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.