Imagine being in a room with Brett Lawrie and explaining to a panel of arbitrators why the fiery infielder is not worth as much as he thinks he is.
There aren't usually batting helmets in meeting rooms, but there are chairs. And though the spirited Canadian has curtailed his temper since his helmet-tossing tantrum in May, he's not a player that I'd want to take on in an arbitration hearing.
Fortunately, Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has a few years to avoid this scenario, but in wake of the lucrative extension awarded to Edwin Encarnacion, the hard-working GM should consider a similar commitment to Lawrie.
It's an idea Anthopoulos seemed to dismiss last week. Under Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement, teams have exclusive rights to a player for their first six seasons, and players are not eligible for arbitration until they have played three seasons. Players also can't become free agents until they have toiled for six or more big-league campaigns.
Following the Encarnacion deal, Anthopoulos told reporters he sees little purpose in forging multi-year deals with young players when the team has them under control, unless the extension buys out some of the player's free agent seasons. He also added he doesn't believe arbitration has to be an acrimonious process
"Maybe I'm naive, but the way we approach salary arbitration isn't to bash the player," Anthopoulos told The Globe & Mail. "Our approach is: 'You made 'x' last year and both your agent and us agree that you deserve a raise. That's good. We both want you to have a raise - now let's see how much the raise will be.'
As adept as Anthopoulos has proven to be at his job, I can't help but feel that he is being a little naive if he thinks that dragging Lawrie through the arbitration process won't frustrate the gritty Langley, B.C. native.
Just 22, the intense third baseman is already the heartbeat of the club and the catalyst of the team's offence. Though his power numbers are down from his 43-game stint last season, Lawrie has compensated for this with Gold Glove defence.
And let's not discount the fact that Lawrie - with apologies to Jose Bautista - is the Jays' most popular player. His jerseys are bestsellers and the energetic Canuck is featured in many of the team's commercials and is a key reason the Jays are attracting a younger fanbase.
So the importance of Lawrie to the Jays - on and off the field - is undeniable.
But I can also understand why Anthopoulos isn't in a hurry to open up the team's wallet. Lawrie has yet to play a full season in the big leagues and isn't eligible for arbitration until 2015 or for free agency until 2018.
Over the past few years, Anthopoulos has been masterful in signing the Jays' core players to affordable, team-friendly deals. But remember Anthopoulos was the assistant GM when J.P. Ricciardi inked Eric Hinske to an ill-fated five-year, $14.75-million US pact after his American League rookie of the year campaign in 2002.
And the charismatic GM might be wary after watching three players - Adam Lind, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow - that he signed to extensions struggle or be sidelined with an injury this season.
It should be noted that these three were signed to multi-year deals when they were further along in their careers than Lawrie. That said, Romero received a five-year extension in August of his second full season and Lind only had one full big-league campaign under his belt when he landed his extension. So signing Lawrie to a long-term deal after this season or sometime next season doesn't seem that far out of line.
One obstacle to signing Lawrie now or in the off-season is the club's policy of not inking players to contracts longer than five years. If the Jays were to sign Lawrie for five years in the off-season, it would only stretch to the end of his final arbitration year. But Anthopoulos has convinced president and CEO Paul Beeston to change rules before and he could do so again.
Yes, there are risks to signing Lawrie. His all-out style of play, as exciting and admirable as it is, increases his chance of injury. On Wednesday, Lawrie suffered a right calf contusion while attempting to catch a foul ball in the third base camera bay at Yankee Stadium.
The dip in Lawrie's power numbers, his short fuse and recklessness on the basepaths are all concerns. But I'm confident he'll improve in all three of these areas as he matures.
An extension with Lawrie in the off-season or next season would offer the club cost certainty and reward a core player who has done everything the team has asked him to do - from learning how to play third base to hitting leadoff to starring in team commercials.
Barring a huge drop in his performance over the Jays' final 70 games, Lawrie is worthy of an offer in the six-year, $20-million range (with a team option or two tacked on to cover a free agent year or two).
The sparkplug may elect not to accept such an offer, but the overture would acknowledge that the Jays consider him a vital part of their future.
If you ask Lawrie who he thinks the best third baseman in baseball is right now, the confident Canadian might say himself. And three years from now, his opinion would likely be the same. And I wouldn't want to be the one telling him otherwise in an arbitration hearing.
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