Arbitration is one of the quirky parts of the business of baseball.
Any player who is arbitration-eligible is all but guaranteed to get a raise, no matter how well he performed the previous year.
Take the case of Royals starting pitcher Luke Hochevar. After struggling through a disappointing 2012 season, he agreed to terms on a one-year contract Friday, avoiding arbitration.
Hochevar, 29, will receive $4.56 million with a chance to make another $100,000 in performance bonuses. Last season, he made $3.51 million.
Not bad for a pitcher who had an 8-16 record with a 5.73 ERA in 32 starts in 2012.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore believes Hochevar will be inspired to perform better this season.
“Luke is a tremendous competitor, and his stuff is very good,” Moore said. “He is a very tough self-evaluator and he is motivated to perform well, and he’s certainly capable of doing that.
“We look forward to having him competing and helping our team win.”
Of course, Hochevar may not have a spot in the rotation this year. The Royals re-signed free agent Jeremy Guthrie during the offseason and traded for James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana.
Those four seem set for the rotation, so that sets up a battle this spring for the fifth spot among Hochevar, Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza and Will Smith.
While Hochevar’s 16 losses were a career worst, he set career-highs in strikeouts (144) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.36). He also pitched 1851/3 innings.
Hochevar was the first overall pick in the 2006 draft. Since making his debut in 2007, he has a career record of 38-59 in 132 games with a 5.39 ERA.
The Royals’ other two arbitration-eligible players, second baseman Chris Getz and pitcher Felipe Paulino, have already signed.
So Hochevar’s signing kept Moore’s perfect record going. Since being hired as Royals general manager in 2006, Moore has yet to go to arbitration with a player.
Moore shrugged off that statistic.
“In any negotiations, you want to seek and receive a fair deal for the team and the player,” Moore said. “Fortunately, we’ve been able to do that in most cases, I think.”