Every offseason we hear about arbitration-eligible players. Usually, the interest in baseball arbitration piques at the Tender Deadline (came and went in early December) when teams decide to either offer arbitration to a player or cut ties based on the player’s projected earnings comparative to their expected contributions to the team.
However, the new luxury tax has added some intrigue to the 2018 arbitration cases, as every dollar spent on payroll inches a team towards new penalties that can cost organizations dollars and draft picks. The Dodgers feature eight players currently eligible for arbitration, headlined by Yasmani Grandal and All-Star Alex Wood.
First, a little refresher on arbitration. Players who have between three to five years service time, and who don’t have an existing contract, are eligible to participate in arbitration. There is an exception: players with at least two years of service time, but not quite three, qualify as “Super Two” players if they are in the top 22% of players in this category. Got it? Good. Check out the MLB.com Glossary for more detailed info on Super Two if you so desire. Players who are tendered contracts at the Tender Deadline await their fate in February of the coming year, just before Spring Training, where they usually sit down with their agent to plead their case to independent arbitrators and files the desired salary, while the club does the same.
It can become quite contentious, as the club usually has to poke holes in the player’s game to justify why he should be awarded the lesser salary that the club wishes to pay. Many times, contracts are struck before the case goes to arbitration, sometimes even hours before the hearing.
How do teams and players plead their case? Well, players/ reps and clubs in the past have utilized traditional, back-of-baseball-card stats, but recently, advanced stats have begun to make their way into the process. Sports on Earth examines this phenomenon here. Players and teams will both compare the player usually to other players at the same position, in the same “platform year,” the service year under examination. For example, Grandal is a third-year arb-eligible player, so we would look for catchers who had similar numbers in their third year of arb eligibility. Also, keep in mind these comps from other teams below are to what those players were in their platform year, not what they are now for better or worse.
So, let’s take a stab at forecasting what our eight Dodgers will contribute to the 2018 Dodger payroll. Also, while we do that, let’s keep that $197 million thresholds in mind that the front office will not want to exceed so the tax penalty rate will reset in time for 2018-2019 offseason that will likely be filled with stud free agents.