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All Schneider, all the time!

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And people thought I was stalking Danny Rueckel . . .

The Nats locked up Schneider today to some sweet, sweet terms: four years, $16 million. Other than reminding Nattyland of the similar deal Cristian Guzman received fourteen months ago, there's not a discouraging word to be said of this one. The contract buys out Schneider's final two arbitration-eligible seasons, as well as his first two years as a prospective free agent.

I admit doing a bit of a double-take when I saw that Schneider is 29 years old; I guess I hadn't realized that before. And, really, 29 isn't old, right? No, it's not. The correct answer is that 29 years old isn't old by any stretch. It's not. Definitely not. Really.

Anyway, Kim Jong Angelos, Dictator from the North, just paid out nearly twice as much won to another 29 year old free agent catcher, Ramon Hernandez, for the same amount of time. Granted, Hernandez was already a free agent and Schneider was selling out his remaining arbitration time, but still---the Schneider deal looks good in comparison, and in any language.

As many of us remember, Schneider battled a sore right throwing shoulder, among other ailments, during the second half of last season. In fact, Frank Robinson set up a de facto platoon to ease the pressure on Schneider---when Schneider could otherwise answer the bell. During last night's XM Radio interview, Holden Kushner did not ask Schneider about the shoulder. But Rocket Bill included this comforting passage in today's article:

Before agreeing to terms, the Nationals wanted to make sure that Schneider's right shoulder was healthy. He had missed the last two weeks of the season because of a sore shoulder. So they had him go to the team's training complex in Viera, Fla., on Monday night to take an enhanced MRI, which was performed by Dr. Bruce Thomas. After consulting with Dr. Tim Kremcheck and Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, Thomas concluded that Schneider's shoulder was 100 percent healthy.

Good. As Bodes notes in the following paragraph, a four-year deal is one spicy meatball. Thankfully, it doesn't appear that the parties entered into the pact before the Nats were certain Schneider's throwing arm is structurally sound.

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In other arbitration-related fun:

  • The Nats avoided arbitration with Nick Johnson, signing him to an incentive-laden, one year deal worth $3.2 million. The specifics of the incentives were not revealed by Rocket Bill, but judging by Bowden's quotation (and as we might have guessed), they appear to be either playing time- or raw stat compilation-related. I'm guessing the incentives could drive the deal over $4 million, but that's just a guess. Either way, it seems pretty equitable. If Johnson is healthy and performs like he can, he'll be a steal.
  • Ladson also reports that the Nats and Alfonso Soriano are $2 million apart right now, with Soriano seeking $12 million. My initial thought is That's crazy!; and now that I think about it a little more, I'm going with That's insane! Really, really insane! Of course, Soriano is in his last year of arbitration-eligibility, and he's racked up the counting stats since day one. However---and correct me if I'm wrong here---I believe that, assuming there is no long-term extension in the works (a safe assumption, I'd say), I believe we'll be looking at the largest arbitration-eligible one-year contract in baseball history. Again, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this article from last year is still accurate; Andruw Jones has the largest-ever one-year arbitration-eligible payout ($8.2 million in '01), and Mariano Rivera has the largest request ($9.25 million in '00, when he lost). I'm trying to think of anyone in the past year who would have upped these figures, but I don't think there is anyone. Thus, I must conclude that Soriano is really reaching into uncharted territory with the $12 million request---and, even if he "settles" for $10 million (or gets that figure by "losing"), we might be looking at the second-largest one-year contract in MLB history, without respect to pre-six-year arbitration, behind Greg Maddux's $14.5 million deal with the Braves in '03. Wow. [Edit: Thanks to Yuda, for reminding me that Roger Clemens agreed to a big hunking one-year deal with the 'Stros, so Soriano would be third overall, first among players still under reserve. Still, Wow.]
By the way, the Hardball Times link above (eh, here it is again) provides a nice overview, history, and links related to the arbitration process. Included in the article is a synopsis of what the arbitrator should consider in determining a player's worth:
  1. player's contribution to the team;
  2. player's previous salary;
  3. salaries of players in similar class.