Show Me the Money! Travis Ishikawa’s Arbitration Case


Welcome to part three of ten of Show Me the Money! an In-depth look at the players and process of the nine players on the Milwaukee Brewers who have filed for arbitration through Major League Baseball. If you need a refresher, here’s part one and two.

Today we go through the hypothetical hearing of first baseman Travis Ishikawa. Travis is kind of a strange case – he was drafted in 2002, and made his Major League debut in 2006 with the San Francisco Giants. He spent the 2007 season in the minors, as well as parts of 2008, 2009, and all of 2011. He did win a World Series ring with San Francisco, but has spent the better part of his career up and down between AAA clubs and the Majors.

The Case For Travis Ishikawa

Estimated salary: $900,000

Travis Ishikawa is hoping his hard work off the bench will pay off in a new contract with Milwaukee. (Kyle Terada – US PRESSWIRE)

It’s a fairly true statement that Travish Ishikawa will probably never be a star-caliber player. But that does not mean that he does not have value with a Major League club, specifically speaking with the Milwaukee Brewers. He plays well off the bench, and always does what is asked of him by the organization. He may not be the highest paid or the highest performing member of a ball club, but Ishikawa makes up for it in his ablility to come through for a team when things are down and with his sense of leadership and responsibility in the clubhouse.

We are not asking for a multi-million dollar contract, or for Travis to be a part of this team for the next decade, we are simply asking that he be paid in accordance to his abilities and his position on this team.

Ishikawa saw limited action in 2012, as a back up first baseman. He was on the roster for 94 games, and hit .257 during that time, including four home runs and 30 RBI. He also posted a .993 fielding percentage during games at first base as a replacement. Besides that, he has shown versatility by playing games in both right field and center field as defensive replacement – a task a team surely wouldn’t ask from many other players.

His stats amongst his peers in service time are right where they should be – players like Eric Hosmer, Ryan Shealy, and even Yonder Alonso. He plays well at his position, has a keen offensive eye and hit can for both power and contact.

He has also shown that he can perform well under pressure – during his time in San Francisco he put up a .250 average in the postseason. Certainly if a team is expected to compete in the postseason a player with experience and veteran presence under such circumstances would be a benefit to his club. We are simply asking that he receive a small pay raise in part for playing hard, and in part as a show of faith that his talents have not gone unnoticed by the Brewers.

The Case for the Milwaukee Brewers

$900,000 is a lot of money to give to any player, let alone a player who managed only 152 at-bats in a season. He did play well during his time on the field, but certainly not well enough to double his current salary.

Travis Ishikawa’s stats are exactly what we expect to see from a player who has little Major League experience and plays a utility role on the team. There is nothing, as far as we have seen statistically, that indicates that Travis Ishikawa is any bit superior to any of the other first basemen on the market, even at the replacement level.

While it may be true that he’s statistically on the same level with Major League players who receive

Ishikawa will likely have played his last games in Milwaukee, and arbitration may be nothing more than a pipe dream (Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE)

more notoriety than he, it certainly not true that this entitles him to a higher salary. In fact, of the above mentioned players in Ishikawa’s case – the first baseman is already out-earning a majority of them. He is paid a respectable rate for his services, and we do not see why this should change.

With the payroll situation being what it is, it would be an unnecessary risk to over him a salary exceeding that which he already has to any substantial degree. While his ability to play a significant role off the bench is certainly appreciated by the club – just how substantial that role will be is questionable, considering that our other pieces return from injury and the off-season producing at a similar rate to what they had last season. If that’s the case, then Ishikawa’s role will be further limited in 2013 and spending the kind of money he is asking for in a role that will be even more limited is not a logical request.

We ask that the arbitration board side with the Milwaukee Brewers and not give Travish Ishikawa his asking salary.

Final Expectations

When taken in the grand schemes of things, this may be the most hypothetical of all of our situations. After all, there are very few players who reach arbitration cases in the first place, least of all bench players. All signs point to Travis Ishikawa as a non-tender case – as in, the Brewers will decline to even offer the first baseman a contract before the December deadline. Such is life for a majority of Major League Baseball players, and there will likely be little animosity over the decision.

Do not look for an arbitration case for Travis Ishikawa, and you probably shouldn’t be too hopeful that he will be a Milwaukee Brewer in 2013 given the current roster situation.