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Projecting Final Contract Numbers for Every Big-Name MLB Player in Arbitration

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterJune 24, 2016

Projecting Final Contract Numbers for Every Big-Name MLB Player in Arbitration

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    'Tis the season for hard bargaining in Major League Baseball. A handful of players filed for arbitration on Friday, including several players with considerable star power.

    Among the notables is San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley, who filed for over $10 million following his breakout year in 2012. Also looking for significant pay raises are San Francisco Giants closer Sergio Romo and Cincinnati Reds right-handers Mat Latos and Homer Bailey.

    The arbitration process will now run its course for these players and the other big-namers who filed last week. The trick will be to find an agreeable middle point between what the players filed for and what their teams filed for, but some lucky ones may walk away with long-term extensions instead.

    With my crystal ball in hand, here are predictions for what 10 big-name players are going to end up with.

    Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Reports on arbitration filings via MLBTradeRumors.com.

Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds

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    Bailey's Terms: $5.8 million

    Cincinnati's Terms: $4.75 million

    Source: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com

    Homer Bailey finally put it all together in 2012. He won a career-high 13 games with a career-low 3.68 ERA. He also established new career bests in innings with 208, strikeouts with 168 and WHIP at 1.24.

    That Bailey had a strong year in terms of wins, ERA, innings and strikeouts will help him in the arbitration process, as arbitrators still give value to old baseball card stats over sabermetric stats. 

    One thing Bailey and the Reds could do is use arbitration as an excuse to hammer out an extension, which is something Cincinnati did with Johnny Cueto in 2011. Like with Bailey, the Reds and Cueto were roughly $1 million apart when they filed in 2011. The end result was a four-year extension worth $27 million. 

    Bailey, however, may figure that he's in for a huge season in 2013 after ending 2012 on a very strong note. He had a 1.85 ERA over his final seven starts, which included a no-hitter. He may prefer to build his stock even further in 2013 and then look for an extension either during the season or next winter.

    After making $2.425 million in 2012, Bailey is looking for a big $3.375 million raise by filing for $5.8 million. That's likely going to be too big for the arbitrator, so look for the $5.275 million midway point between him and the Reds to come into play when his final 2013 salary is decided.

    Prediction: One year, $5.4 million

Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati Reds

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    Choo's Terms: $8 million

    Cincinnati's Terms: $6.75 million

    Source: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com

    Shin-Soo Choo didn't have one of his better seasons in 2012, but it was something of a return to form after a trying 2011 season. Choo played in 155 games after playing in only 85 in 2011, and he hit .283 with 16 home runs and 67 RBI.

    Choo avoided arbitration with the Cleveland Indians last year by accepting what was a roughly $1 million raise over what he made in 2011. That won't be happening this year, as a $1 million raise over his 2012 salary would amount to only about a $6 million salary.

    It's very unlikely that Choo will agree to an extension either. He's represented by Scott Boras, who knows that Choo stands to be a top target on the free-agent market after the 2013 season if he has another strong year. 

    Choo is looking for a $3.1 million raise by filing for $8 million. Since he's had better years than the one he had in 2012, he's unlikely to have his wish granted. His 2013 salary should fall closer to the $7.375 million midway point between him and the Reds.

    Prediction: One year, $7.5 million

Dexter Fowler, Colorado Rockies

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    Fowler's Terms: $5.15 million

    Colorado's Terms: $4.25 million

    Source: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com

    Dexter Fowler had a career year in 2012. He entered the season with a career .262 batting average, yet proceeded to hit an even .300 with with a career-high 13 home runs and 53 RBI.

    The new career highs in average and home runs will help Fowler in arbitration. Just as these two stats stood out on baseball cards back in the day, they still stand out when placed in front of arbitrators.

    Because Fowler is only 26 years old and is clearly getting better with age, the Rockies may use arbitration as an excuse to hammer out an extension that would keep Fowler in Colorado into his free-agent years (he's due to become a free agent after 2015).

    However, because Fowler has been mentioned so often as a trade candidate this winter, the Rockies may instead look to save themselves some money in the long run. Their goal may still be to trade Fowler, and they don't need to worry yet about his value slipping with free agency still several years away.

    So look for a one-year deal between Fowler and the Rockies to be struck. Since he's coming off a career-year, it will likely be worth a little more than the midway point of $4.7 million. He'll get a nice raise over the $2.35 million he made in 2012.

    Prediction: One year, $4.8 million

Chase Headley, San Diego Padres

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    Headley's Terms: $10.3 million

    San Diego's Terms: $7.075 million

    Source: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com

    Chase Headley broke out in a huge way in 2012. He hit .286 with an .875 OPS, and he hit a career-high 31 home runs with a career-high 115 RBI. His RBI total also led the National League.

    Headley's strong showings in the home run and RBI categories could be what emboldened him to file for $10.3 million, which is easily the highest salary figure filed by a player this year.

    With free agency two years away for Headley, now would be a good time for the Padres to lock him up to an extension if they wanted to. The price of an extension, however, may be more than the Padres can afford. And like with the Rockies and Dexter Fowler, the Padres may have their eyes on trading Headley in the near future.

    Unfortunately for the Padres, they're going to have to give Headley quite a raise for at least the 2013 season. The midway point between them and Headley is just under $8.7 million, but Headley is likely to come out ahead in the end because of how his career season included a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger and a top-five finish in the NL MVP voting to go along with his career bests in homers and RBI.

    Look for him to get a big raise on the $3.475 million he made in 2012.

    Prediction: One year, $8.9 million

Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles

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    Johnson's Terms: $7.1 million

    Baltimore's Terms: $5.7 million

    Source: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun

    Jim Johnson is yet another guy coming off a career year in 2012. After serving as an underrated setup man in the previous four seasons, Johnson led baseball with 51 saves in his first year as a full-time closer. He also had a 2.49 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP.

    Johnson's league-leading 51 saves will be a huge help for him in arbitration, as high save totals have a tendency to lead to big raises for closers in arbitration. As Matt Swartz of MLBTradeRumors.com recently pointed out, closers who have gone into arbitration in the past fresh off seasons that saw them save over 40 games got raises between $2.7 and $3.5 million.

    Johnson made $2.625 million in 2012, so a $3.5 million raise would put him at $6.125 million for 2013. That would surely be fine with the Orioles, but they're probably not going to be that lucky. Johnson saved more games in 2012 than any other previous arbitration-eligible closer, so he's probably going to set a new record for a raise given to a closer.

    Something close to his $7.1 million filing is in the cards.

    Prediction: One year, $6.7 million

Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds

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    Latos' Terms: $4.7 million

    Cincinnati's Terms: $4.15 million

    Source: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com

    Mat Latos' first season in Cincinnati was a success. He went 14-4 in 33 starts with an ERA of 3.48, and he pitched a career-high 209.1 innings.

    One way or another, Latos is due a huge raise on the $550,000 he made in 2012. There's a very good chance that he won't end up with a simple one-year solution, as the Reds could move to do with Latos what they did with Johnny Cueto after the 2010 season.

    That was Cueto's 24-year-old season, and the 2012 campaign was Latos' 24-year-old season. With three years to go until free agency and his reputation as one of baseball's top young pitchers pretty well established, Latos may be just as open to an extension as the Reds. It's in his interest to sign now while his value could go down just as easily as it could go up.

    The four-year extension Cueto got in 2011 is a good model to use for Latos, as it would take care of the next three years and then his first season of free agency in 2016. Upon its conclusion, Latos would still be on the good side of 30 heading into the free-agent market.

    When the Reds gave Cueto his four-year extension, the average annual value was for roughly twice what he filed for ($3.9 million). That would surely be a starting point for an extension for Latos, but I'd expect a couple million bucks to be added on top to account for the rising prices of top right-handers.

    Prediction: Four years, $48 million

Jason Motte, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Motte's Terms: $5.5 million

    St. Louis' Terms: $4.5 million

    Source: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com

    Jason Motte's strong showing as St. Louis' closer late in the 2011 season translated pretty well to 2012. He tied Craig Kimbrel for the NL lead in saves with 42, and he also posted a 2.75 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per nine innings. 

    Motte made $1.95 million in 2012, so he's a candidate for one of the $3.5 million raises we talked about back on the Jim Johnson slide after co-leading the NL in saves. 

    A $3.5 million raise in Motte's case would put his 2013 salary at right around the figure he's asking for. There's a chance he'll get it, but he's likely to fall a little short seeing as how his 42 saves in 2012 were not a record total for an arbitration-eligible closer.

    Expect his final 2013 salary to be closer to the midpoint between him and the Cardinals.

    Prediction: One year, $5.2 million

    UPDATE: Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 5:35 pm ET

    The Cardinals and Motte have agreed to a two-year deal, thus avoiding arbitration. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com has reported that the deal is worth a total of $12 million. 

    The average annual value is worth $500,000 more than Motte filed for. Color me surprised, and good for him.

Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants

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    Romo's Terms: $4.5 million

    San Francisco's Terms: $2.675 million

    Source: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com

    Sergio Romo languished in San Francisco as an underappreciated setup man in 2010 and 2011, but the 2012 season saw him emerge as a true lockdown closer late in the season.

    Romo's arbitration case is a little complicated, though. He was instrumental in helping the Giants win the World Series, but he saved only 14 games during the regular season. That's on top of the 23 holds that he compiled, which only tied a career high.

    Romo is due a raise after avoiding arbitration with a $1.575 million contract last offseason, but he'll be lucky to get anything close to the $4.5 million he's looking for. He just doesn't have the kind of stats that are likely to sway the arbitrator in his direction.

    I'd expect a one-year deal to be struck close to the $3.587 midway point.

    Prediction: One year, $3.6 million

Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

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    Scherzer's Terms: $7.4 million

    Detroit's Terms: $6.05 million

    Source: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com

    Max Scherzer picked a good time to have what was something of a career year in 2012. He won a career-high 16 games with a 3.74 ERA, and he led the American League in strikeouts per nine innings at 11.1.

    Scherzer made $3.75 million in 2012, so he's looking for a $3.65 million raise by filing at $7.4 million. The Tigers are only looking to give him a $2.3 million raise, which comes off as a low-ball figure given the track record of pitchers heading into arbitration fresh off 15-win seasons.

    Matt Swartz of MLBTR discussed a number of those in his breakdown of Scherzer's arbitration case, noting that Jered Weaver in 2011 may be the best comp for Scherzer this winter. Weaver won 13 games while pitching over 224 innings and leading the American League in strikeouts, and he was ultimately awarded a $3.105 million raise. 

    A roughly $3.1 million raise would put Scherzer pretty close to the $6.725 midway point between him and the Tigers. Because the prices for stud pitchers are rising, Scherzer's final 2013 salary should be on his side of the midway point, but a little short of what he's hoping for.

    Prediction: One year, $7.1 million

Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals

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    Zimmermann's Terms: $5.8 million

    Washington's Terms: $4.6 million

    Source: Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com

    Jordan Zimmermann was the overlooked member of Washington's vaunted rotation in 2012. He made a career-high 32 starts, and achieved other career-bests with 12 wins and a 2.94 ERA.

    James Wagner of the Washington Post has reported that the Nats are open to signing Zimmermann to an extension, but he may prefer to wait. It is a concern that he's already had Tommy John surgery, but he has three years to build his value before free agency and he's still developing as an ace pitcher. This time next year, his value could be twice what it is now.

    Zimmermann made $2.3 million in 2012, so he's looking for a $3.5 million raise in arbitration. The Nationals are only looking to double his salary.

    The Nationals have a leg to stand on, as the type of raise Zimmermann is looking for is typically reserved for 15-win pitchers and other such excellent starting pitchers (as defined by the old baseball card stats, mind you).

    The midway point of $5.2 million between Zimmermann and the Nationals will likely come in to play, and his 2012 salary will likely end up being very close to it.

    Prediction: One year, $5.3 million

     

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