What does a guy have to do to get offered salary arbitration?
Career year? Check.
Locker room leader? Check.
Clutch performances? Check.
Offer salary arbitration? ACCESS DENIED!!!!! No salary arbitration for you, Darren Oliver!
No soup arbitration for you!!! Come back, one year!!!
In a season where the Angel bullpen was left in shambles by an onslaught of injuries and ineffectiveness, Darren Oliver was one of the few shining lights of the relief corps as he stepped up his game to go from solid lefty middle reliever to top notch set-up man and really the only reliable arm in the Halo bullpen. What was his reward after the season as he heads into free agency? Nothing.
The Angels are apparently so thankful for the fantastic job that DO did for them this last year that rather than offer him salary arbitration, thus assuring him a nice raise in pay and making it a virtual certainty that he would return to the Angels, the Angel front office has chosen to gamble on letting Oliver sign elsewhere in hopes of giving him only a slightly less nice raise in pay. Not what I would have done, but a bold choice.
By declining to offer salary arbitration to Darren Oliver the team is signaling one of three things: 1) they either already have an understanding with Oliver that he will re-sign with them and them only, thus there is no need to get lawyers involved, or, more likely, 2) they are far more concerned with controlling payroll than previously indicated or 3) the Angels have already decided to let Oliver walk and use his salary on an upgrade in the pen but didn’t want to risk getting stuck with Oliver when the arbitration draft compensation scared off any potential suitors for Oliver.
No arbitration offer is good reason for Darren Oliver to sweat.
The optimist in me wants to believe in option 1, but really, what would the point of that be. If Oliver re-signing was such a done deal, why not just get the deal pounded out in the last several weeks and avoid this altogether. As for option 3, that is also attractive to Angel fans, but rather out of character for the Angel front office. They certainly aren’t adverse to letting aging veterans walk away (see Darin Erstad, Garret Anderson, Troy Percival, etc.), but only when they are losing effectiveness (again, see Darin Erstad, Garret Anderson, Troy Percival, etc.) not when they are coming off an incredibly productive season.
By process of elimination, one can only conclude that option 2 is the reason for Oliver not being offered arbitration. Having made about $3.665 million in salary last season, Oliver was a relative bargain. But once the salary arbitrators get a hold of DO, his salary could increase substantially, possibly even doubling. Not such a bargain anymore, so one can definitely understand why the Angels were scared of the arbitration process. However, there is no doubt that Oliver is going to be looking for a pay bump after spending all season saving the bullpen’s ass. His salary may not double, but Oliver is still going to be padding his paycheck this coming season, now the question is will it be the Angels doing the padding.
Tony Reagins’ eagerness to save a million or so dollars is understandable, but in this case it appears to be misguided. The bullpen looks like it will be manned by almost all the same players next year but if the Angels lose Darren Oliver, a very real possibility now that he won’t cost another team draft choices, the pen could be without their main stabilizing force all over what would ultimately amount to an additional 1% increase in payroll. I’m no oddsmaker, but that seems like high-risk, low-reward gamble to me.
DO sporting a Rangers uniform? It could happen again and very soon.
If Oliver gets away, and it certainly is starting to look like he might, the Angels will do what they can to use his salary from last year to acquire more bullpen talent, but who out there is going to work for that same bargain price and be just as effective and consistent as Oliver has been in his Angel tenure? Roughly nobody.
But what’s done is done, let’s just hope that we won’t be looking back at this decision in about six months bemoaning the woeful Angel bullpen and their lack of both leadership and consistency while Darren Oliver solidifies the relief corps of some other AL contender.