Tigers, Galarraga avoid arbitration
The Tigers will go another winter without an arbitration hearing, continuing their streak by agreeing to terms on a one-year contract with right-hander Armando Galarraga.
The deal, announced Tuesday, is reportedly worth $2.3 million for the first-time arbitration eligible Galarraga. It bridges what was expected to be a potentially difficult gap between what Galarraga wanted after the better part of three seasons in Detroit’s rotation, and what the Tigers wanted for someone whose rotation chances for 2011 now look shaky after last week’s signing of Brad Penny.
Galarraga had a statistical conundrum of a season, and his would-be perfect game ruined by umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call was just the start of it. Galarraga could never turn that June 2 outing into momentum for the summer, and finished the year with a 4-9 record and 4.49 ERA. He made $438,000 last year.
Not since Eric Hillman in 1993 had a Major League pitcher won four games or less in a season when they posted a 4.50 ERA or less over at least 140 innings. Just three others besides Hillman had pulled off that feat since 1985: Larry McWilliams and Zane Smith in 1989, and John Dopson in 1988. Galarraga was the first American League pitcher to do it since Frank Tanana in 1981.
Galarraga’s puzzling 2010 season came two years after he came out of an obscure minor-league trade with Texas to lead the Tigers in victories in 2008, going 13-7 with a 3.73 ERA. He has gone 10-19 in the two seasons since, seen his walk-to-strikeout ratio deterioriate and struggle to pound the strike zone with the same effective he enjoyed as a rookie.
Galarraga’s contract is not fully guaranteed. The Tigers can let him go into Spring Training and compete for a spot, but could conceivably release him by March 15 and owe him just 30 days’ termination pay, or just under $380,000. If they released him by March 30, they would owe him 45 days’ pay, or just under $569,000.
They could also try to trade him, or they could keep him around as a reliever if he doesn’t take a rotation spot.
For reference sake, Galarraga will earn the exact same salary Jeremy Bonderman did in his first arbitration-eligible season back in 2006. Nate Robertson earned more as a first-time eligible player, signing for $3.26 million in 2007.
The Tigers have not gone to an arbitration hearing with a player since Dave Dombrowski took over as general manager in 2002. Galarraga’s agreement, on the heels of a two-year contract with Ryan Raburn and a one-year deal with Joel Zumaya earlier in the month, means that streak will continue for another year.