Rays’ Ryan Thompson reviews, criticizes MLB’s arbitration process

In a 28-tweet thread, the reliever noted the arbitrators’ perceived lack of baseball knowledge, the Rays’ tactics and his worth compared to others at his position.
Reliever Ryan Thompson suggested after losing his arbitration hearing that the Rays could spend the difference between his $1.2 million request and their winning $1 million offer on exercise equipment.
Reliever Ryan Thompson suggested after losing his arbitration hearing that the Rays could spend the difference between his $1.2 million request and their winning $1 million offer on exercise equipment. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Feb. 23|Updated Feb. 24

LAKE BUENA VISTA — When reliever Ryan Thompson found out Saturday he had lost his arbitration case to the Rays, he said he was “absolutely” disappointed with the result. He was somewhat philosophical about the process. He was even a bit flip, saying he was thrilled to still make $1 million and suggesting the Rays spend the difference between their offer and his $1.2 million request on exercise equipment.

But Thompson had more — much more — to say, and Wednesday night posted a 28-tweet, nearly 1,100-word thread.

He questioned the baseball knowledge of the three arbitrators in what he called a “flawed” but fascinating process. He said he had “no ill will” toward the Rays but did address their tactics, including their “brilliant” use of “buzzwords” and data points that he said “swayed” the panel. And he singled out other relievers, such as the Dodgers’ Brusdar Graterol, who he thought he should make closer to or more than.

In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times Thursday morning, Thompson said he felt the need to share more about an “off-putting” process that he feels strongly needs to more transparent — for both the parties as they prepare their cases and for all when the decisions are announced.

“I stand by everything I said,” Thompson said. “There’s no ill will between me or the Rays. I just wanted to kind of shed some light on something that’s completely hidden for reasons that I don’t understand.”

Baseball operations president Erik Neander said it was “most important” to the Rays that Thompson had no issues with them. “I appreciate him making it clear how we went about things,” Neander said. “We were there because of a disagreement (about his salary), and his impressions are his impressions, and he’s got a right to share those.”

Agent Nik Lubisich said via email the case was a learning experience for Thompson, “the lack of understanding and transparency on the determined outcome was what we all came back to when discussing the process,” and they feel the system “can always be improved and evaluated year after year.”

Thompson took most issue with the three arbitrators, who are chosen jointly by Major League Baseball and the players union.

He expressed concerned that the panelists “have an unknown knowledge of the game of baseball. Maybe they play fantasy baseball or maybe they call scoring runs ‘points.’” He said the assumption he and his reps made that the arbitrators “were savvy enough to understand basic rules and statistics” was incorrect. And he found it “extremely disconcerting” that rather than ruling solely on the information that had been presented, the arbitrators were “socializing, drinking, and using their devices prior to making a decision. (Not at all assuming foul play),” he tweeted. “Just an obvious flaw.”

Thompson, in the tweets, also expressed frustration with a process that establishes specific criteria, such as prior year and career stats, and previous and comparable salaries (which he said his side chose to stay as strict to “as possible”) but allowed the Rays to push other points, such as the timing of injured-list stints that kept him out of the playoffs.

“For us to go through these processes for however many years (arbitration) has been a thing, and not really have it set in stone what the right approach is, like how does it make sense that my approach and the Rays’ approach are completely 180 degrees different?” Thompson said Thursday. “If the process was concrete in the way it was done, we would both attack it from the same standpoint. And whoever attacked it better would win. But it was like there was just two completely different philosophies.”

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

In his tweets and comments, Thompson said repeatedly he had no issues with the Rays, saying they “were as professional and respectful as possible considering the circumstances.”

But he did make several pointed references to the tactics the outside consulting firm the Rays and other teams use for hearings made in arguing the case, calling them “a more emotional ploy that relied less on logic or facts but was excellently put together.”

Among the points he noted were emphasizing blown saves, which are not as damning for middle relievers as closers; citing a metric called “Meltdowns” that he had never heard of; and suggesting his stats against left-handers were better because his use was managed.

But, Thompson emphasized, he had no complaints.

“How could I be mad at somebody for being smarter than me?” he said. “They beat me fair and square.”

Thompson also outlined the relievers his reps considered comparables, saying they filed for $1.2 million because Graterol was the closest, and he settled with the Dodgers at $1.225 million. In tweeting that “the arbitrators decided that I was worth 225 thousand dollars less than Graterol,” Thompson used a mind-blown emoji. Thompson also said he should make more than the Royals’ Josh Staumont and free agent Cam Bedrosian, and should have a higher gap over the Rangers’ Jonathan Hernandez.

Ultimately, Thompson said, he wants the system to be more transparent and the arbitrators to explain their decisions.

“I find it strange that the entire process is just very hidden and secretive,” he said.

Here are all of Thompson’s tweets:

Thompson then added these two tweets:

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify remarks Thompson made about his pay in relation to other relievers around the league.

• • •

Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.