Arbitration Eligibles: San Diego Padres

Matt Swartz has developed a very accurate model that MLBTR uses to project arbitration salaries, as explained in this series of posts. We've heard from many MLB teams and agencies that reference the projections in their work.  The Padres are next in our series.  Estimated service time is in parentheses, and estimated 2014 salary follows.

After a disappointing season that made 2012's power output look like the outlier, Headley projects to receive a small raise through arbitration as he enters his contract year.  Mutual interest in an extension remains, Headley told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick in September.  Crasnick suggested Alex Gordon's five-year, $50MM deal as a potential comparable, a contract signed directly after Gordon's first elite season with the player two years away from free agency.  We've seen contract year extensions for Carlos Gomez (three years, $24MM), Martin Prado (four years, $40MM), and Carlos Quentin (three years, $30MM), and Headley could regret sacrificing his first crack at free agency for that type of deal.  Headley told Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times in September, "I'm not actively trying to get to free agency, but trying to get what you are worth is important. It would be foolish not to at least pay attention. I'm not going to sell myself short."  I think if Headley can't get close to the five-year, $85MM range of the Andre Ethier deal, he'll hold off and risk a potential trade now or in July.

With Kennedy, Stults, Cashner, Ross, and Richard, the Padres have an entire rotation eligible for arbitration.  After undergoing shoulder surgery in mid-July, expect Richard to be non-tendered, even without a raise in the cards.  It's possible the Padres could look to bring him back on a much cheaper deal.  The other four are secure, with newly-acquired workhorse Kennedy projecting for the largest salary.  As a Boras Corporation client coming off a 4.91 ERA season, I don't expect him to sign an extension.  Ross, acquired from the Athletics a year ago, posted a sparkling 3.06 ERA in 16 starts but may not have done enough in his career to justify an extension.

Stults and Cashner are a study in contrast: the soft-tossing, 33-year-old former journeyman southpaw, and the hard-throwing 27-year-old former first round draft pick.  Stults led the Padres in innings this year and would probably jump at a multiyear guarantee.  Cashner had a breakout, fully healthy year, logging a 3.04 ERA in 26 starts after joining the rotation in late April.  With only 286 1/3 career innings, he's best compared to pitchers with less than three years of service, making five years and less than $30MM a possibility if both sides are thinking long-term.

Gregerson logged another sub-3.00 ERA season, showing a level of durability and consistency rarely found in a reliever.  The market suggests a three-year deal in the $15-16MM deal range, though the Padres could consider trading him for a significant return if they'd prefer not to go long-term.  After beginning the season in the minors, Stauffer fell short of six years of Major League service time.  He should be retained after a solid campaign as a long reliever.

Cabrera earned his first All-Star nod from Giants manager Bruce Bochy, though it was tainted by the Biogenesis investigation.  At the All-Star game, Cabrera maintained his innocence, which was ultimately revealed as a lie the following month when he accepted a 50-game suspension and apologized.  It would be a difficult spot for the Padres to lock him up, plus he's a Boras client anyway.

Blanks set a career high with 308 plate appearances, including five home runs and 18 RBI in June.  He later missed significant time with an Achilles injury.  Guzman started over 60 games for the 2013 Padres with ugly results, failing to mash lefties as he did from 2011-12.  Both are right-handed hitters who can handle first base and the outfield corners.  They also both project to earn around a million bucks.  If the Padres' projected starters are healthy, they may only have room for one of Blanks and Guzman, making a trade possible.  As the younger of the two, Blanks seems more likely to stay.

Assuming Headley, Kennedy, Gregerson, Stults, Cashner, Cabrera, Guzman, Ross, Blanks, and Stauffer are tendered contracts, the Padres are looking at an estimated $33.1MM for ten arbitration eligible players.

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