As the offseason looming, the focus of front offices is turning toward retaining their players. With more than 230 players eligible for arbitration, MLB Trade Rumors has released their projected salaries for each player sorted by team.
Two temporary omissions were made for the unique cases of Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu. Puig—who is expected to be traded—could land an extension as part of an offseason trade.
The 29-year-old Abreu on the other hand has three years remaining on his six-year deal, but can opt-out this offseason in lieu of arbitration. Although he is coming off of a down year, Abreu is only owed $34 million over the next three seasons, and could command more on the free market.
According to the projections, the Orioles and Mets lead the majors in salary arbitration commitments and it’s not particularly close. The Orioles and Mets are projected to owe $50.1 million and $46.2 million respectively by arbitration settlements alone.
The Orioles have 10 players eligible for arbitration including Zach Britton, Chris Tillman, and Ryan Flaherty—who are on their last year of eligibility—as well as Manny Machado. Those four players alone are projected to be worth $34.9 million, which is more than the projected commitments of 25 other teams.
The Mets meanwhile have Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, Rene Rivera, and Justin Ruggiano all in their last seasons of arbitration eligibility. As well as those four, the Mets have eight others who are eligible including Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Jacob deGrom, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wilmer Flores. This will be deGrom, d’Arnaud, and Flores’ first seasons earning salary arbitration and are due a modest $8.1 million combined. In the coming seasons though, that total will grow.
Service time is a huge deciding factor in what a player is worth in arbitration, which explains deGrom’s low projection of $4.5 million, and Reed’s high projection of $10.6 million.
Seniority does make sense in many union scenarios to help dictate worth, however, the arbitration system of determining salary is somewhat antiquated. For instance, the Brewer’s slugger Chris Carter is projected to be worth $8.1 million in just his second season of arbitration eligibility with 4.159 years of service time accrued. To put that into context, Yasmani Grandal, who has roughly the same amount of service time and was worth three times the wins above replacement by FanGraphs’ measure, is only projected to earn $5.3 million. This is attributable to nothing other than the fact that Carter hit 24 more home runs than Grandal, while posting a virtually identical OPS.
With the explosion in home runs this season, it will be interesting to see how arbitrators adjust to the inflated power numbers. As they seem to rely on power numbers and taboo RBI totals, arbitration totals may actually inflate beyond even these projections. Freddy Galvis, for instance, is projected to be worth $4.4 million going into his second season of arbitration. However, the Phillies’ shortstop did hit 20 home runs this season, which could inappropriately inflate his offensive contributions which were well below the league average by wRC+.
Of course, many of these players will never even make it to arbitration. While many players and teams make it to the filing process of the expected salary, very few actually make it to the hearing. Somewhat naturally, it is considered an unpleasant experience for both sides to argue about a player’s worth.
Furthermore, many of the players in their last season of arbitration eligibility agree to longer-term deals with their teams. Focus then turns to players like Jake Arrieta who are projected to be worth $16.8 million in their final season of arbitration—right around the value of the expected qualifying offer. While that would be a large settlement in arbitration, that still wouldn’t break the record of $19.75 million set by David Price prior to the 2015 season.
Arbitration season will more officially begin in December, with hearings going into the New Year. With more than 230 players eligible, it’s going to be a busy offseason.