Let's Make A Deal (Arbitration Edition)
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA TodayLet’s take a look at the eight players who are up for arbitration and talk through the various options.
(Please note that the player number and team number are guesses by me after looking at arbitration-eligible players signing in the last couple of years. Mid-point is obviously just math.)
1st Year Arbitration-Eligible Players
Eddie Rosario - OF
2018 Contract: $602,000
MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $5.0M
Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Projection: $4.0M
Service Time: 3.120
Player number: $5.0 million - There aren’t a lot of similar players over the last couple of years. There are a lot of good players who have made between $2.6 and $2.8 million but Rosario has been better than them at the same stage. Jake Lamb is a third baseman, but he made $4.275 million coming off of being an All-Star. Rosario should get a little more than that, but shouldn’t ask for too much more as he likely wouldn’t get it.
Team number: $4.0 million - Again, there aren’t a lot of recent comparables, but Rosario has been really good in three of his four seasons, and both 2017 and 2018.
Mid-point: $4.5 million - One can’t help but wonder what these numbers may have looked like had Rosario stayed healthy over the final four to five weeks of the season. I think this would be a very fair deal for both sides.
Long-term contract? A long-term deal might make some sense for Rosario. With Rosario’s aggressive nature at the plate, would the team be willing to extend Rosario for the next four or five years? It seems unlikely. A two-year, $10 million type of deal might make some sense to both sides, but I don’t think a four-plus year deal makes as much sense.
The Star-Tribune is reporting that the Twins have signed all eight players,, including Eddie Rosario.
Max Kepler - OF
2018 Contract: $587,000
MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $3.2 million
Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Projection: $3.0 million
Service Time: 2.152
Player number: $3.25 million - Kepler has been worth an average of about 2.3 WAR each of his three seasons. He’s also played almost every day and been better defensively than both (players that the team may compare him to) while still hitting 18-20 homers a year. Has shown he can also play center field.
Team number: $2.75 million - At the same time in their career, Joc Pederson and Randall Grichuk got $2.6 million. With minimal inflation, I don’t think that the Twins can offer that same $2.6 million and need to bump it up just a little bit.
Mid-point: $3.0 million - This just seems like a good deal for both sides.
Long-term contract? Kepler is a Super 2 player, so the Twins have four more years of control. With Alex Kirilloff and LaMonte Wade on the horizon, there doesn’t seem like a lot of reason for the Twins to look to extend Kepler. However, if they believe in his talent, make-up and work ethic, it might be a good time to approach a long-term deal.
Miguel Sano - 3B
2018 Contract: $602,000
MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $3.1 million
Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Projection: $3.0 million
Service Time: 3.066
Player number: $3.6 million - Jake Lamb got $4.275 million at the same point in his career, but he was coming off of his second straight 30-homer season and drove in 105 runs. Sano’s side can’t approach that number.
Team number: $2.5 million - Maikel Franco, who wasn’t good in 2017, but still played a lot, earned $2.95 million in his first year of arbitration. Sano has played better than Franco, when healthy, but he has missed a lot of time, so the Twins shouldn’t feel they have to approach the Franco number. However, going too much lower than $2.4 million and they might not be able to win a case in front of a judge.
Mid-point: $3.05 million - While the mid-point in my guesses is the mid-point between the Twins Daily and the MLB Trade Rumors projects, this case is one that has a chance to go to arbitration because the sides could be further apart than others who might have a similar mid-point.
Long-term contract? Ummm… No. Sano’s side realizes that a long-term deal would be fairly low, conservative at this time. Sano has clearly put in work this offseason and owes it to himself to see how 2019 goes and if that hard work pays off. All of the questions that we as fans have about Sano, the front office certainly would have too, right?
Byron Buxton - OF
2018 Contract: $580,000
MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.2 million
Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Projection: $2.0 million
Service Time: 2.160
Player number: $2.25 million - Michael Taylor got $2.525 million with the Nationals, but the speedy center fielder was coming off of a season that was closer to Buxton’s 2017. Had Buxton been arbitration-eligible, $3-4 million would have been possible. But, he had a rough, injury-plagued 2018.
Team number: $1.5 million - Others with similar deals include Ezequiel Carrera ($1.16M), Aaron Hicks (first arbitration - $1.375M), Enrique Hernandez ($1.6M), and Leury Garcia ($1.175M). Buxton is so great defensively, when on the field, that they shouldn’t go as low as these guys, even if they had played more.
Mid-point: $1.875 million - MLB Trade Rumors is far lower than this, but I just don’t see how that can be if the players listed in the “Team Number” section are at that number or higher. Kike Hernandez hit .190 and .215 without a lot of power for the Dodgers in the two seasons before his first arbitration season. There is no reason that Buxton should get less than that.
Long-term contract? While there would be a lot of risk, Buxton’s defense alone makes him worth at least considering long-term. But, at this point, it might be a year early for that conversation. Also, as a Super 2, the Twins control his rights for the next four seasons.
Taylor Rogers - LH RP
2018 Contract: $565,000
MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.6 million
Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Projection: $1.5 million
Service Time: 2.145
Player number: $1.9 million - A look at the relievers who were first-year arbitration-eligible is interesting. The guys who have been good for a couple of years are all in the $1.6-2.1 million range. If the player has a bunch of saves, then that number goes up quite a bit. The guys with mediocre success are in the $1.1-1.3 million range. Taylor Rogers was very good through the first four months in 2017 and the final four months of the 2018 season. At the end or 2018, he was one of the best lefty relievers in the league.
Team number: $1.4 million - The Twins can’t try to go even on the lower end of the “mediocre” group of reliever values. I think they know that they have to at least be on the upper end of that group.
Mid-point: $1.65 million - Again, this number just seems to make a lot of sense for Rogers.
Long-term contract? Another Super-2, the Twins have four more years of control of Rogers. There is absolutely no rush to do anything right now. Going five or more years on a relief pitcher doesn’t make a lot of sense, unless the price is right. Cost certainty is what the Twins would be going for. As a lefty reliever, who probably won’t be a closer type, Rogers probably knows that he will never make the real big free agent money. So, there is definitely some room for conversation. How about something like $1.5 million in 2019, $2.5 million in 2020, $3.5 million in 2021. It could be a guaranteed $7.5 million for Rogers The risk for the Twins would be very low. The risk for what Rogers could make over this is also fairly low, maybe a million or two while at the same time being set for life.Plus, he would still have a year of arbitration after that contract runs out.
2nd Year Arbitration-Eligible Players
Trevor May - RH RP
2018 Contract: $650,000
MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $1.1 million
Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Projection: $1.5 million
Service Time: 4.012
Player number: - $1.5 million - It’s hard to predict what a player who missed a full season with Tommy John will get in arbitration. Obviously a year ago, May had to settle for a value barely over MLB’s minimum salary. In 2018, he returned mid-season and struggled a bit. But when he came back, he looked terrific. In fact, by season’s end, he put himself into the discussion for closing and late-inning relief plans for 2019 and beyond.
Team number: - $1.0 million - From purely the business side of things, May’s overall numbers the last two years are not going to make him a lot of money, so the Twins shouldn’t feel like they have to come in real high. Regardless of future plans for May, arbitration is going to be based on (usually) the last two seasons and that isn’t positive for May.
Mid-point: $1.25 million - I think this is a good number.
Long-term contract? Since May has just two more years of team control, this would be the time when a long-term deal should be approached if the Twins feel that he is 100% recovered and can stay healthy and productive for the next several seasons. I believe in May. I would really try to work out a deal in the four year range.
This could be tough to negotiate, however, because of the way bullpens are changing. In the past, May would likely be heading into the season as the top candidate for the closer job. Now teams use bullpens differently and a guy like May can be used in a critical game situation anytime between the seventh and ninth innings. So saves may not be there, and typically saves have been what teams have paid for.
So, I like the idea of something like this. $1.1 million in 2019, $2.4 million in 2020, $3.75 million in 2021 and $5.25 million in 2022. That deal would buy out two years of free agency and be worth four years, and $12.5 million.
I would also include some sort of escalation incentives on something like (though I’m just spit-balling) appearances in the seventh inning or later. Maybe if he reaches 50 such appearances in 2019, each subsequent year’s base salary increases by $250,000. Maybe at 60 such appearances, it increases each future season’s base salary by $500,000. Basically, the more high-leverage situations he pitches in, the more money he can make. With such a deal, May could make as much as $3 million more ($15.5 million over four years). It doesn't put him in the Felipe Vazquez (4 years, $22 million deal with a couple of option years), but with the timing and risk, it shouldn't. That would still be a number that the Twins could feel comfortable with, and yet it would also give May long-term financial security.
3rd (and Final) Year Arbitration-Eligible Players
Jake Odorizzi - RH SP
2018 Contract: $6.3 million
MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $9.4 million
Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Projection: $10.0 million
Service Time: 5.042
Player number: $9.5 million - I mean if MLB Trade Rumors is projecting that he gets $9.4 million, there’s no reason for Odorizzi’s camp to ask for any less.
Team number: $8.0 million - Odorizzi’s stats got worse for the third straight season, and he’s never been an innings eater.
Mid-point:.$8.75 million - This seems to be a big enough discrepancy that the team may just decide to go to arbitration, willing to eat an extra $750K if they lose on a one-year deal. And as we know, the Twins have plenty of money to not worry about it this offseason.
Long-term contract? Maybe, but probably unlikely. Nick wrote about the reasons to extend Odorizzi rather than Gibson last month, not the least of which is that he is three years younger. It’s hard to envision such a deal coming before the season, and if it would, it would likely be a two-year deal, allowing him to go into free agency following the 2020 season, still just 30.
Kyle Gibson - RH SP
2018 Contract: $4.2 million
MLB Trade Rumors Projection: $7.9 million
Twins Daily Offseason Handbook Projection: $8.5 million
Service Time: 5.039
Player number: $8.5 million - One name to consider is Michael Pineda in his final season of arbitration. His final three seasons before free agency included three seasons of an ERA in the mid-4s. He received $7.5 million. That was two years ago… Gibson was fantastic in 2018 and trending positively. He should be higher than that Pineda deal by a bit.
Team number: $7.25 million - A year ago, in his final year of arbitration, Patrick Corbin received $7.5 million. As good as Gibson was in 2018, Corbin was a bit better in 2017. Gibson’s numbers in 2017 were a tick behind Corbin’s numbers in 2016. So the Twins contract to compare against might be Corbin.
Mid-point: $7.875 million - This is another case where the sides are far enough apart that they may want to just go to arbitration and see what happens. The Twins have money. Or, it’s possible that instead of going to the mid-point, maybe the Twins brass would be willing to go a bit beyond the mid-point.
Long-term contract? Kyle Gibson took his game to another level in 2018, and he was consistent all year. After years of his getting back from Tommy John and unable to find consistency, he figured things out in the second half of 2017 and it appears that he may have become what scouts felt he could be all along. There is certainly reason to keep him in a Twins uniform if he’s willing to forego free agency and work with the Twins on a three-year extension. If he pitches like he did in 2018, Gibson could get a three-year, $45-50 million deal next year.
The deadline for filing the numbers is on Friday, but we are already starting to see deals made on Wednesday. Many more will agree to terms throughout Thursday, and my guess would be that most of the eight players will reach an agreement. As you see above, there certainly are cases where they could go before an arbitrator.
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