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White Sox and Dayan Viciedo inch toward inevitability

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$4.4 million salary now on books for 2015, but cost of cutting him is unclear

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The uneasy alliance between the White Sox and Dayan Viciedo reached another winter milestone, as the two sides avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $4.4 million contract for the 2015 season.

We've discussed Viciedo into the ground here, but I want to revisit the specific topic of a spring training DFA in order to resurface a point that many might not have seen. Last month, I mentioned that if the White Sox designated Viciedo for assignment during spring training, they'd only be responsible for one-sixth of his salary. While that's what the CBA says, Larry added a caveat in the comments on Jan. 1:

there seems to be a bit of a misconception about this whole "only be on the hook for $750K if they cut him in the spring" thing.

it isn’t that simple. a player awarded a contract in arbitration can only have his contract terminated in that way based on "failure to exhibit sufficient skill or competitive ability". and that’s based on spring training stats. if viciedo is lighting things up in spring training – and outperforming the guys with whom he’s competing with for a job – there’s going to be a grievance filed by the union. heck, the union files a grievance essentially anytime a contract is terminated in this way, regardless of circumstances.

$750K is really the floor. they’re almost certainly going to end up paying more than that. they’re really at the mercy of small sample sizes. if viciedo is out there slashing .375/.475/.675, one can certainly see the eventual settlement getting pretty close to the difference in salary between what he got in arbitration and what he got from whatever team ended up signing him. i’d personally put the realistic floor at $1.5M or so.

There aren't a whole lot of opportunities to see this play out, because it's unusual for teams to tender a contract to an arbitration-eligible player and cut him before he plays another official game. I could only find two last year:

Emilio Bonifacio: The Royals signed him to a $3.5 million contract for 2014, then DFA'd him on Feb. 1 to make room for Bruce Chen. He was released, then signed a split contract with the Cubs. He earned a spot on the 25-man roster and thus earned $2.5 million. He also received 30 days' pay from the Royals per the CBA ($573, 771). There is no record of a grievance.

Juan Francisco: The Brewers pulled a late-spring surprise by releasing Francisco just as they were about to leave Arizona. Because they made the move within the last two weeks of  spring training, they were on the hook for 45 days' pay, or $337,500 of his $1.35 million contract. He then signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, earned a spot on the roster in late April and stuck for the rest of the season. There is also no record of a grievance.

But Larry says there usually isn't a public accounting when the union files a complaint, and in Francisco's case, he definitely would have had a reason to contest the decision on the basis of "competitive ability." The Brewers opted to carry Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds as corner infielders instead of Francisco, and Francisco outhit both of them handily in Cactus League play:

  • Francisco: .346/.500/.731 over 34 PA
  • Overbay: .208/.356/.250 over 59 PA
  • Reynolds: .236/.333/.436 over 63 PA

So, if the entire process is shrouded in mystery, even for Scott Boras clients, then we're basically dealing with an unanswerable question (if a grievance happens in a forest and it doesn't make a sound ...).

That's assuming the Sox get to that point, anyway. The other options are still in play, from the (unlikely?) event of a trade to the increasingly likely spot on the bench, courtesy of Bonifacio's flexibility. All the $4.4 million contract does is turn a projected salary into an actual one.

With Viciedo on the books, the White Sox have five more contracts to finish (projected salary from MLB Trade Rumors):

  • Jeff Samardzija ($9.5 million)
  • Tyler Flowers ($2.1 million)
  • Hector Noesi ($1.9 million)
  • Nate Jones ($600,000)
  • Javy Guerra ($1.3 million)