Comparing Compensation with Peers
Before hearings begin, MLB provides the panel with a table containing confidential salary data, sorted on service time. The panel compares offers to the salaries of players with the same service time and those with one more year.
For example, the Atlanta Braves and Max Fried could have compared his salary with any player having four or five years service time, like Julio Urias (5.117 yrs) or Juan Soto (4.134), but not with Joe Musgrove (6.063 yrs) or Taijuan Walker (8.142 yrs.) Note that Fried is compared to all players with four or five years service time, not just the pitchers
Today’s teams know the market value of their player. A team rarely undervalues a player by a wide margin. When a player goes to a hearing over a small difference, it’s a forward-looking strategy built by the agent and, in some cases, encouraged by the union.
Fried is both the team’s number-one starter and union rep. The union encourages its star players to push the envelope during salary negotiations. It’s realistic to believe that Fried fits that category and would push the envelope.
In 2022, he convinced the panel he was worth $250K more than the Braves offered. His ask was close to projections and didn’t move the pay needle much, but it was a small win giving his agent a feel for what the Braves might say in 2023.
Fried’s final offer this year is $2.8M more than the MLBTR projection and $1.5M more than the Atlanta Braves final offer.
The Atlanta Braves' Offer
The Braves are a file and trial team. That strategy tells you that the club won’t step over the amount they’ve penciled in, neither will they throw out their best offer immediately.
MLBTR projected Fried at $12.2M, and the Braves likely started negotiating near that point, knowing they wouldn’t exceed $13.5M. The Braves’ final offer was $1.3M above the MLBTR projection. If Fried’s negotiation had come close to $13.5M – and $15M is close – the hearing wouldn’t have happened.
Fried and his agent wanted a hearing and tried to set a record for the largest-ever award by an arbitration panel.
But the panel of Mark Burstein, Fredric Horowitz, and Jeanne agreed with the Braves, and Fried managed only a tie with Gerrit Cole’s 2019 award as the highest decided by an arbitration panel.