The Dodgers are next in our arbitration eligibles series.
- First time: Clayton Kershaw
- Second time: Tony Gwynn Jr.
- Third time: Matt Kemp, James Loney, Hong-Chih Kuo
- Fourth time: Andre Ethier
Should Kershaw win the Cy Young award, our model projects a record-shattering first-time pitcher salary of $8.4MM. Tim Lincecum had two Cy Youngs under his belt when he submitted for $13MM against the Giants' $8MM figure in February of 2010. We know Lincecum would have gotten one of those two figures had he not signed an extension. Kershaw's agents, the Hendricks brothers, could position their client as Lincecum Lite. Kershaw won't have the two Cys but he will have almost 120 more innings, seven more wins, and pretty much the same ERA Lincecum did.
Kemp could bring an MVP award or at least a lot of votes to the arbitration table. Matt Swartz's work for MLBTR has shown that MVP and Cy Young awards boost salary more for first-time arbitration eligibles, so Kemp's huge payday may come mostly from his stellar stats. The model projects a $16.3MM salary for Kemp, though admittedly a $9.35MM raise might be a tough sell for his agent Dave Stewart. Matt explained to me, "There's just no one in recent history who has the kind of AVG/SB combined with the HR/RBI like Kemp, so he’s basically getting a Prince Fielder/Ryan Howard raise and a B.J. Upton/Corey Patterson raise at the same time." Matt notes that the Kemp and Kershaw projections have the widest error bars, because there is so little precedent for them.
Ethier will be well-paid as well; he projects at $10.7MM. That represents a pretty small raise from the last year of his two-year deal, as Ethier was lacking in counting stats this year. A few days ago, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told ESPN's Jim Bowden he's not inclined to trade Ethier. Colletti said in September he'd love to have Loney back; we think the first baseman could get $6.5MM in arbitration. Kuo, a non-tender candidate, projects at a salary reduction to about $2.5MM. Gwynn is on the bubble as well; he could make $1.1MM in arbitration.
If all six arbitration eligible Dodgers are retained, the total could reach a staggering $45MM. But if Loney, Kuo, and Gwynn are deemed too expensive at arbitration prices, that'd trim about $10MM. Cot's Baseball Contracts shows contractual commitments totaling $46.2MM for 2012, including $11.5MM for Manny Ramirez and Andruw Jones. Even the high-end arbitration estimate puts the Dodgers around $90MM before accounting for minimum salary players, and that's $30MM below the 2011 Opening Day payroll. Further savings could be found through trades or non-tenders, or reduced salaries in long-term deals for Kershaw and/or Kemp. The team's ownership turmoil figures to result in a reduced payroll, but Colletti seems to think he can afford some significant free agents.
Matt Swartz contributed to this post.