Odds of Each Top Remaining MLB Arbitration Case Going to a Hearing
After last offseason where not a single arbitration case was taken to a hearing for the first time ever, there are several high-profile players yet to come to terms on a contract with their team. As such, their agents could find themselves arguing on behalf of their clients in the near future in front of an arbitrator while the teams they play for come up with reasons for why they shouldn't be paid as much as they think they should.
This can't result in an ideal working relationship, which is why the two sides will try hard to work out a deal prior to a hearing taking place.
Here are 10 of the more intriguing cases and the odds on whether it will go to a hearing.
Justin Masterson, SP, Cleveland Indians
Justin Masterson ($11.8M salary proposal) vs. Cleveland Indians ($8.05M salary proposal)
According to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, there is a strong chance that Masterson will be the first Indians player to go to an arbitration hearing since 1991.
The near $4 million gap, which is the largest of what is currently over 30 unsettled cases, is likely an indication of why the two sides have also been unable to make progress on a long-term contract extension, as Bastian also noted.
An All-Star in 2013, the 28-year-old Masterson will end up as either the third- or fourth-highest-paid Indians player for the 2014 season behind Nick Swisher ($15M), Michael Bourn ($13.5M) and either just ahead or behind shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera ($10M).
Odds of a hearing: 4/1
Homer Bailey, SP, Cincinnati Reds
Homer Bailey ($11.6M salary proposal) vs. Cincinnati Reds ($8.7M salary proposal)
The two sides were still discussing a long-term contract extension, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com, after failing to come to terms on a deal for 2014.
It's more likely that they'll focus on what he'll make in 2014, his last season before he can become a free agent.
If he wins his case, which wouldn't be a surprise after the back-to-back strong seasons (3.58 ERA, 24 wins, 417 IP, 2.3 BB/9, 7.9 K/9 in 2012-2013), he'd be the second-highest-paid player on the team in 2014 just behind Joey Votto ($12M).
Odds of a hearing: 5/1
Doug Fister, SP, Washington Nationals
Doug Fister ($8.5M salary proposal) vs. Washington Nationals ($5.75M salary proposal)
It appears that the Washington Nationals got themselves a potential bargain when they acquired Fister from the Detroit Tigers this offseason for a utility man, lefty reliever and mid-level pitching prospect.
Now they want to pay him at a bargain rate for 2014 that would only be a $1.75 million raise after a season in which he won 14 games, posted a 3.67 ERA with a 1.9 BB/9 and 6.9 K/9 in 208.2 innings pitched.
Since this is not exactly the right foot to get started on with a new employee who is under contract for two more seasons, the Nats will work extremely hard to get a deal done that is fair for both sides.
Odds of a hearing: 10/1
Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta Braves
Craig Kimbrel ($9M salary proposal) vs. Atlanta Braves ($6.55M salary proposal)
Kimbrel's first year of arbitration will result in a raise that will be no less than $5.9 million and possibly more than $8.3 million. So it's hard to to see the 25-year-old, who has an NL Rookie of the Year award and three All-Star appearances on his resume, being too disappointed regardless of the outcome.
The lower his salary is in 2014, though, the lower it will be in 2015 and 2016. This is extremely important because the Braves are a mid-market team who won't be thrilled for their closer, regardless of how good he is, to take up such a big percentage of the team's payroll.
If Kimbrel can win the case and make $9 million, his salary could easily exceed $15 million by 2016, which might be way more than a team expected to have a sub-$100 million payroll in 2014 is willing to take on. The Braves are very likely to maintain a hard stance on this one.
Odds of a hearing: 3/1
Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles
Matt Wieters ($8.75M salary proposal) vs. Baltimore Orioles ($6.5M salary proposal)
Locking up the 27-year-old Wieters, who has two years left of club control, is looking less and less likely. The two sides haven't made much progress on a contract extension, according to Steve Melewski of MASN.com, with the Orioles possibly unwilling to break the bank after Wieters' numbers declined from a .764 OPS in 2013 to .704 OPS last season with an alarming .287 on-base percentage.
Even if he were to bounce back with a strong 2014 season, agent Scott Boras could prefer that his client test the open market following the 2016 season rather than negotiate an extension a year earlier.
The gap is small enough, however, where it wouldn't be a surprise if the two met somewhere close to the middle and avoided any bad blood heading into what will be a very important season for Wieters and the O's.
Odds of a hearing: 10/1
Jeff Samardzija, SP, Chicago Cubs
Jeff Samardzija ($6.2M salary proposal) vs. Chicago Cubs ($4.4M salary proposal)
If the Cubs really do see Samardzija as part of their long-term plans and they have what Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago writes is a "mutual respect on both sides and hope they can eventually find common ground," it certainly doesn't seem that way after the team proposed a $1.76 million raise for their staff ace.
It's clear that the Cubs aren't quite ready to compete, based off of their quiet winter following a 96-loss season, and the 29-year-old Samardzija would appear to be trade bait in the near future, if he's not already, if they can't come to terms on a long-term agreement.
A low-ball offer after a solid season in which Samardzija posted a 4.34 ERA, 3.3 BB/9 and 9.0 K/9 in 213.2 innings pitched would indicate that the team would prefer to trade him rather than negotiate a long-term deal with a pitcher who likely has much more value to a contender over the next two seasons.
Odds of a hearing: 5/1
Aroldis Chapman, RP, Cincinnati Reds
Aroldis Chapman ($5.4M salary proposal) vs. Cincinnati Reds ($4.6M salary proposal)
The 25-year-old Chapman had a clause in his contract that turned his $3 million salary into a bonus if he was eligible for arbitration, which he is for the first time.
So while the gap is a mere $800,000, the Reds could feel that it's worth fighting for after paying the two-time All-Star closer's bonus. If they want to have a chance at signing Chapman long term, though, they'll want to avoid the potential fallout that it could bring.
Odds of a hearing: 30/1
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
Freddie Freeman ($5.75M salary proposal) vs. Atlanta Braves ($4.5M salary proposal)
With so many young players forming the core of a very talented roster and payroll limitations as a mid-market organization, the Braves will have to pick and choose which players they'll try and lock up to long-term deals.
Starting with first baseman Freddie Freeman, who was fifth in NL MVP voting in his age-23 season, would be a terrific idea.
Avoiding a hearing in his first year of arbitration eligibility, especially since the gap is only $1.25 million, would be a good first step in ensuring a long-term relationship between the Braves and a player who could very well be the Chipper Jones of his era—a consistent star who plays his entire career with one team.
Biting the bullet and paying the extra $1.25 million, as opposed to explaining to an arbitrator why he's not worth it, could be the key to an eventual team-friendly contract extension that wouldn't likely be possible if Freeman has another season or two like he did in 2013 (.897 OPS).
Odds of a hearing: 25/1
Mark Trumbo, OF, Arizona Diamondacks
Mark Trumbo ($5.85M salary proposal) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks ($3.4M salary proposal)
The Diamondbacks may have been willing to pay a high price to acquire a 30-homer hitter, but they apparently don't think that big home run totals should result in more than a $3 million raise.
Trumbo and his agents, on the other hand, think he deserves more than a $5 million raise after he hit 34 homers and knocked in 100 runs for the Los Angeles Angels in 2013.
Still, it's not a huge gap and the two sides shouldn't have a hard time coming to terms, especially with the Diamondbacks holding on to the $120 million they had ticketed for Masahiro Tanaka, as reported by Japanese outlet Nikkan Sports (via Arizona Sports).
Odds of a hearing: 15/1
Tyler Clippard, RP, Washington Nationals
Tyler Clippard ($6.35M salary proposal) vs. Washington Nationals ($4.45M salary proposal)
Clippard has been one of the best relievers in baseball over the past five seasons (2.72 ERA, 3.6 BB/9, 10.3 K/9), which is why he's totally justified in asking for a $2.35 million raise in 2014.
The Nationals, who have already committed close to $20 million for pitchers expected to be in their bullpen next season, are justified in trying to limit that total.
The 28-year-old Clippard, who is still under team control for two more seasons and an early favorite to be the team's closer in 2015, might be too valuable to risk alienating over a gap that's less than $2 million. Or maybe they aren't interested in signing a reliever who has averaged 74 appearances per season since 2010 to a long-term contract extension. This one could go either way.
Odds of a hearing: 6/1