Wolf Decision Raises Questions

Let me just quote the lead paragraph of this LA Times story.

The decision by the Dodgers not to offer arbitration to pitcher Randy Wolf or any of their other free agents Tuesday should not be viewed as a sign that their uncertain ownership situation is affecting them financially, General Manager Ned Colletti said.

“Our decision was made strictly from a baseball perspective,” Colletti said.

If that’s true, Dodger fans should be pretty upset today. If this was a baseball decision, then Ned Colletti either doesn’t like draft picks or he doesn’t like Randy Wolf, who really should have been an easy arbitration offer decision.

Wolf, as a Type A free agent, would have netted the Dodgers two draft picks had he signed elsewhere. He’s made it known that he’s looking for a multi-year deal this winter, and coming off a strong 2009 season, he’s very likely to get one. The odds of Wolf accepting arbitration to take another one year deal were not very good. This is his chance to cash in with some long term security, and he wasn’t going to give that up to get a few million extra in 2010.

Even if Colletti disagrees with that assessment, the downside of Wolf accepting arbitration is not that high. He’d probably end up getting somewhere around $14 or $15 million in arbitration – our valuation says he was worth $13.6 million last year, and he’s likely to be a $10 or $11 million pitcher in 2010. The risk that they would have taken was to pay slightly more than his actual value for a quality mid-rotation starter on a one year deal.

And the Dodgers are not exactly overflowing with starting pitching. In some cases, you could make the argument that an arbitration offer could muck up the roster if a player accepts when the team had another player ready to take his job. The Dodgers have no such player ready to take Wolf’s rotation spot.

As a baseball decision, this is a bad one. Of course, there’s a pretty decent chance that this was not a baseball decision, and that the Dodgers are being hamstrung by the McCourts’ divorce, leading to uncertain budgets and the need to count pennies carefully. That would make a lot more sense than believing that the Dodgers thought that Wolf would accept arbitration over pursuing a multi-year contract as a free agent, and that they would be unhappy with that result.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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“[Colletti] doesn’t like Randy Wolf”

Shouldn’t that be “Colletti DOES like Randy Wolf”? By not offering arb, he won’t cost the signing team a draft pick, which should result in a couple of million more dollars for Wolf. If all the people who didn’t like me were to arrange for me to have a couple million more dollars. . .