Due to the lockout this offseason, arbitration cases were not able to be carried out on their usual schedule. That meant the Brewers had to come to terms with their arbitration-eligible players in spring training, and they did so with all but one of them; Adrian Houser.
The Brewers took Adrian Houser to an arbitration hearing, which took place during the season a couple of weeks ago.
Now, the verdict is in and Houser lost.
There was a difference of $575k between what Houser filed for his 2022 salary and what the Brewers filed at. He will earn just $2.425MM this season.
The Brewers were able to beat Adrian Houser in arbitration and save some money, but only a minimal amount.
The amount of money saved by beating Houser in arbitration doesn’t even amount to a full league minimum salary after the increase in the latest CBA. Still, that doesn’t mean this case wasn’t important. It sets a lower baseline for future raises that Adrian Houser could earn. Instead of earning an ‘x’ percentage increase on a $3MM salary for next year, he could earn that same ‘x’ percentage raise, but on a $2.425MM salary, which means less money overall for Houser.
The tough thing with arbitration is how imperfect and difficult it is to assess a player’s true value and worth. It relies a lot on precedence and comparisons to other players and what they earned. Just because a few years ago a player of the same caliber was paid a certain amount doesn’t mean a player in today’s game should get that same amount or below. The game changes and the pay scale has certainly changed.
While most fans and even the Brewers front office themselves know that Houser is a valuable part of their team and has really blossomed of late, arbitration takes into account the player’s entire big league contributions. That includes Houser’s cup of coffee in 2015 followed by an injury that prevented him from reaching the big leagues again until 2018.
There’s also Houser going back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen in 2019 before finally settling on being a starter late in the year. Then Houser struggled in 2020 with a 5.30 ERA in 12 games.
Granted, there is the recent performance of 2021 where he made 28 appearances and had a strong 3.22 ERA, and that’s what sticks in the minds of fans who look at his recent performance and current value to the team. Arbitration just doesn’t place as much emphasis on that aspect, especially for a player’s first year being arbitration eligible.
As good as Houser is, he’s also never thrown more than 142 IP in a season and only has one good, complete season as a starting pitcher. That’s what arbitration looked at and likely what the Brewers were pointing out in the trial.
Houser has continued to pitch well in 2022, with a 3.22 ERA so far in seven starts. He’s essentially the 5th starter in the rotation but does a solid job and would be better than a 5th starter in most other rotations.
Is Adrian Houser worth more than $2.425MM a season? Yes. Is he worth $3MM for this season? Probably, if not more. But the process will pay him $2.425MM this year. The decision is final.