Arbitration Roundup: Max Scherzer, Chris Davis and Nats’ duo lead signings
On Monday, 146 players filed for salary arbitration. By Friday night, all but 39 of them had settled with their teams.
The reason for the quick resolution to those other 107 cases was that Friday afternoon was the deadline for the players and their teams to submit the salary figures the arbitrator must choose between at the conclusion of their hearing. That effectively forces both sides in the negotiation to show their hands.
What’s more, an increasing number of teams have adopted a “file and trial” policy, meaning that they will only negotiate a settlement prior to the deadline to file figures, thus once figures are filed, a trial is guaranteed. However, given that there were no arbitration hearings last year for the first time since salary arbitration was introduced in 1972, those “file and trial” policies may be softer than teams want the players and their agents to believe.
The Astros, Blue Jays, Brewers, Pirates, Rays, Rockies, Twins, White Sox, and Yankees have settled with all of their arbitration-eligible players.
Here’s a quick look at some of the more notable settlements, as well as the list of 39 players who wound up submitting figures Friday, all of whom can still avoid a hearing by settling with their team in advance of their hearing. Salary arbitration hearings don’t commence until February 1.
Ten Million Dollar Men
Seven arbitration eligible players came to terms with their teams on contracts worth $10 million or more this week. Here they are ranked by the total value of their new contracts.
Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers
$215 million, seven years
Kershaw, who won two of the last three National League Cy Young awards, came to terms on Wednesday on this, the richest pitching contract in major league history which also boasts the highest average annual value of any contract in major league history.
Jordan Zimmermann, RHP, Nationals
$24 million, two years
The Nationals wisely bought out both of Zimmermann’s remaining arbitration years for an average annual value of $12 million, a bargain for a pitcher who has emerged as their staff ace over the last two years. The big savings comes this year as Zimmermann will make just $7.5 million in 2014 but $16.5 million in 2015. He made $5.35 million in 2013 while making the All-Star team, leading the league in wins (19) and shutouts (2) and finishing seventh in Cy Young voting.
Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals
$17.5 million, two years
The Nationals also bought Desmond’s two remaining arbitration years and will pay him $6.5 million in 2014 and $11 million in 2015. Once again, the Nats got themselves a bargain given that Desmond is a good defensive shortstop who hit .286/.333/.480 over the last two years while averaging 22 home runs and 21 steals at a 78 percent success rate.
Max Scherzer, RHP, Tigers
$15.525 million, one year
With the exception of Kershaw, defending American League Cy Young award winner Scherzer is the recipient of the largest raise among the 107 players to settle this week, as well as the arbitration-eligible players who settled prior to Monday’s filing deadline. Scherzer, who is in his final year of arbitration, made $6.725 million during his Cy Young campaign and landed an $8.8 million raise. That Scherzer got paid is no surprise. That it came in the form of a one-year deal rather than an extension, is more surprising and would seem to greatly increase his chances of reaching free agency in the fall.
David Price, LHP, Rays
$14.0 million, one year
Price came to terms with the Rays on Thursday and has another year of arbitration remaining beyond this one. If he stays healthy this year (he missed a month and a half with a triceps strain in 2013), he could become a $20 million player before reaching free agency, which is a large part of the reason the cash-strapped Rays are interested in trading him. As it is, his $14 million salary for the coming season is the highest in franchise history.
Chase Headley, 3B, Padres
$10.525 million, one year
Headley’s here because of the raise he got last winter, not this winter. After hitting .286/.376/.498 with 31 home runs and a league-leading 115 RBIs in 2012, Headley got a $5.1 million raise from the Padres last January, boosting his salary to $8.575. Having come back down to his previous level of production in 2013, his raise this offseason was less than $2 million, the smallest of any player to settle for more than $7 million thus far.
Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles
$10.35 million, one year
Scherzer may have received the largest non-Kershaw raise in raw dollars, but leaving out first-year-eligible players coming off salaries in and around $500,000, Davis is the player who has landed the largest raise relative to his 2013 salary. Coming off a season in which he made $3.3 million, hit .286/.370/.634, and led the majors with 53 home runs (a franchise record), 138 RBIs, and 370 total bases and finished third in the Most Valuable Player voting, Davis was awarded a 214 percent raise. By comparison, Scherzer’s $8.8 million raise was only 130 percent more than his 2013 salary.
Jim Johnson, RHP, A’s
$10.0 million, one year
A former Super Two player, Johnson was arbitration-eligible for the fourth time this winter. Having led the major leagues each of the last two seasons with a combined 101 saves and earned $6.5 million last year, his $10 million salary is within expectations and is the primary, if not only reason the Orioles traded him to Oakland in early December.
In addition to Kershaw, Zimmermann, and Desmond, one other player was given a guaranteed multi-year contract this week, that being Reds reliever Sam Lecure. He was inked for $3.05 million over the next two years, but will be arbitration-eligible again in 2016. Go figure.
First-Year Eligible Players
Among the players eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, the biggest payday thus far has gone to Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who signed for $6.5 million, just shy of a $6 million increase over his 2013 salary and just more than an 1,100 percent increase.
Stanton may yet be surpassed by Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, however. Kimbrel has yet to sign and seems destined be among the first players to go to an arbitration hearing since 2012 as the Braves are considered baseball’s most strict “file and trial” team.
The Braves adopted that policy in 2010 yet haven’t gone to a hearing since defeating closer John Rocker in 2001. Last year, their only unsigned player after figures were filed was Martin Prado, but he was traded to Arizona a week later, well before his hearing, and wound up settling with the Diamondbacks.
This year, the Braves filed figures on three players, Kimbrel, first baseman Freddie Freeman, and right-fielder Jason Heyward, none of whom seem likely to be traded. In Kimbrel’s case, the Braves filed $6.55 million, while the closer countered with a whopping $9 million. Kimbrel will surpass Stanton in raw salary regardless of the outcome of his hearing, and if Kimbrel does win in arbitration, he’ll have landed a 1,370 percent raise.
Other than Stanton, the only other first-year eligible player to sign for more than $4 million is Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who settled for $4.25 million. However, Freeman and Royals closer Greg Holland are both guaranteed at least $4.5 million and $4.1 million, respectively, if they go to trial. Meanwhile, new Diamondbacks slugger Mark Trumbo, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, Cubs starter Travis Wood and Mets starter Dillon Gee all filed figures in excess of $4 million. Of the first-year-eligible players to file figures Friday, Trumbo’s $5.85 million request was exceeded only by Kimbrel’s.
More On Figures Filed
Of the 39 players to file figures Friday, the five largest player requests were Cleveland starter Justin Masterson’s $11.8 million, Reds starter Homer Bailey’s $11.6 million, Kimbrel’s $9 million, Orioles catcher Matt Wieters’ $8.75 million, and new Nationals starter Doug Fister’s $8.5 million.
The biggest gap between player and team amounts in total dollars is the $3.75 million separating Masterson’s $11.8 million request from the Indians’ $8.05 million offer. The largest by percentage is the gap between Logan Morrison’s $2.5 million request and the Mariners’ $1.1 million offer (127 percent).
The smallest gap by both total dollars and percentage is between Padres righty Andrew Cashner’s $2.4 million request and the team’s $2.275 million offer (5.5 percent). A close second in terms of percentage is the 5.8 percent separating Jason Heyward’s $5.5 million request and the Braves’ $5.2 million offer. It’s difficult to believe the Braves are going to force Heyward to endure a contentious arbitration hearing because of their refusal to negotiate over $300,000.
Here’s the full list of the 39 players who filed numbers with their 2013 salaries and the salary figures filed by both the player and his team ranked by player request. All amounts in millions:
|Andrew Miller||RP||Red Sox||$1.475||$1.55||$2.15|