These days, most of the best arbitration eligible players are signed to multiyear deals. So far this offseason 25 players signed extensions covering at least one arbitration year, with more to come in April. It's rare to see a star player make it all the way to free agency going year-to-year. Many don't even make it to arbitration. With that in mind, let's take a look at the best arbitration eligible position players currently on one-year deals. I've included the agencies from our database.
- Geovany Soto, Cubs - Wasserman Media Group
- Mike Napoli, Rangers - Brian Grieper
- Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks - Octagon
Soto, signed for $3MM in his first arbitration year, is probably a candidate to begin extension talks in the near future - especially if he starts strong in 2011. Napoli's escalating salary makes him a non-tender candidate after the season. It's understandable that Montero was not locked up, given Arizona's GM changes and the player's injuries.
Fielder didn't technically go year-to-year, as he signed for $18MM over his first two arbitration seasons. He'll end up making $33.5MM over the three arb years, 88% of what Joey Votto will make despite Votto signing for all three years at once. At any rate, Fielder represents a real live star player who will get his six years service time and hit free agency. Morales' situation is no surprise, given the Angels-Boras factor and his injury-shortened 2011 season.
Dan Uggla headed this list for a couple of years, but the Braves bought out his final arbitration year recently. Johnson hasn't had the consistency to justify an extension, as he was non-tendered after '09. Prado, who also could be grouped as a third baseman or left fielder, could be a candidate if the price is right.
- Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays - Wasserman Media Group
- Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians - Octagon
- J.J. Hardy, Orioles - LSW Baseball
We should note that Stephen Drew is on the Fielder/Matt Holliday plan, where his extension did not buy out free agent years. Injuries have gotten in the way for Cabrera and Hardy, while the Braves clearly didn't like Escobar enough to commit to him. At $18.25MM over four arbitration years, Hardy didn't do too badly anyway.
- Kevin Kouzmanoff, Athletics - Wasserman Media Group
Kouzmanoff hasn't done enough to justify an extension, and he could be non-tendered after the season.
- Shin-Soo Choo, Indians - Boras Corporation
- Josh Willingham - Sosnick/Cobbe
- Hunter Pence - Beverly Hills Sports Council
- Nelson Cruz - ACES
- Andres Torres - ACES
- Delmon Young - Wasserman Media Group
- Angel Pagan - Wasserman Media Group
- Michael Bourn - Boras Corporation
- B.J. Upton - Reynolds Sports Management
- Adam Jones - CAA Sports
- Jacoby Ellsbury - Boras Corporation
- Ryan Ludwick - Beverly Hills Sports Council
Choo, Bourn, and Ellsbury may continue going year to year, as Boras typically encourages. Choo is already just under $4MM in his first arbitration year, and could top Pence's $6.9MM for 2012. Cruz, Torres, and Pagan haven't shown the consistency and/or durability as everyday players usually required for a multiyear deal.
Willingham, Pence, Young, Upton, Jones, and Ludwick may fall into an interesting bracket: too good to be non-tendered, but not at the level where you need to lock them up without a significant discount. Willingham made $13.55MM over his three arb years, while Ludwick did even better at $15.925MM. Pence, though, won a huge second-year award of $6.9MM and is already at $10.4MM with two more arbitration years to go. If he remains consistent, the Astros are going to have some tough decisions in the near future.