Dodgers avoid arbitration with Ethier, Loney

Kershaw only remaining player on team without contract for 2012

By Ken Gurnick / | 01/17/12 8:45 PM EST

LOS ANGELES -- National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw is seeking a 2012 salary of $10 million, with the Dodgers offering $6.5 million, in numbers exchanged through the arbitration process on Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, the club signed outfielder Andre Ethier and first baseman James Loney to one-year contracts. Ethier received $10.95 million plus performance bonuses, while Loney received $6.375 million plus performance bonuses. Both players are represented by CAA.
If Kershaw's case goes to a hearing in February, a three-member panel of arbitrators will hear both sides present arguments and rebuttals, then choose one salary or the other. If Kershaw wins, he'll receive a salary 20 times larger than the $500,000 he made last year. However, negotiations can continue until then on a one-year or multiyear deal, and only a handful of cases each year go to a hearing.

Kershaw agreed to the $500,000 salary last year without the leverage of arbitration and all he did was win the Cy Young Award. The last Dodgers pitcher to win a Cy Young Award was reliever Eric Gagne, whose salary jumped from $550,000 to $5 million even while losing an arbitration hearing. Gagne was seeking $8 million. The Dodgers have no case to make against Kershaw other than the argument that, as great as he was, he is overreaching in salary -- the same case they successfully presented against Gagne.
Kershaw, who held a news conference Tuesday at Dodger Stadium to promote a new book he wrote with wife Ellen, deflected questions about his contract status. He is represented by former player J.D. Smart of Hendricks Sports Management.
"I'm not talking about that now," said Kershaw, the team's player representative. "We'll see what happens. You never know."
As for Ethier, he earned $9.25 million last year, the final year of a two-year deal, and this is his final year before he's eligible for free agency.
Ethier was a second-time All-Star in 2011 and was in line to break the bank, but his numbers tailed off as his right knee acted up, eventually requiring clean-up surgery that cut short his season and stunted his stats (11 homers, 62 RBIs). In addition to the injury, the Dodgers in a hearing could have pointed to his .220 batting average and one homer against left-handed pitching.
Loney also was entering his final season of arbitration before he'll be eligible for free agency. He settled for $4.875 million last year. Loney's case, as was his season, is intriguing. He lacks the customary power for his position and his 2011 season was two in one -- horrible in the first half, fantastic in the second half. The Dodgers could have argued that inconsistency, along with a .213 average against left-handed pitching. He was also arrested after a November traffic incident, although no charges have been pressed.
The Dodgers will have a new point person on arbitration preparations, Alex Tamin, hired in October as director of baseball contracts, research and operations. Tamin assisted the Dodgers last year.
Since the inception of salary arbitration 36 years ago, the Dodgers are 14-6 in cases decided by a hearing and 6-1 in their last seven cases, dating back to 1991. That includes the most recent wins over Joe Beimel in 2007 and Gagne in 2004 by Kim Ng, the assistant general manager who had been in charge of the club's cases through last season until leaving to work for the Commissioner's Office.
The last player to beat the Dodgers in a hearing was Terry Adams in 2001. The club's first arbitration case was in 1975, when Ron Cey was awarded a salary of $56,000 instead of the club's submission of $47,000.