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 Dodgers are next in our series. Estimated service time is in parentheses, and estimated 2014 salary follows.
- Clayton Kershaw (5.105): $18.2MM
- Kenley Jansen (3.073): $4.8MM
- A.J. Ellis (3.151): $3.2MM
- Ronald Belisario (3.151): $2.3MM
- Drew Butera (3.018): $700K
- Scott Elbert (3.069): $600K
- Mike Baxter (2.129, Super Two): $500K
Kershaw easily has the largest projected salary of the 200+ arbitration eligible players. Furthermore, his projection tops the largest arbitration reward in MLB history, Prince Fielder's $15.5MM in 2011. Cole Hamels set the record for a pitcher with $15MM in 2012. We had to invoke the Kimbrel Rule in limiting Kershaw's raise to $6.9MM.
There seems to be a general feeling that Kershaw has little chance of reaching the open market, because the Dodgers have the money and intent to sign their ace long-term within the next 12 months (and preferably before the 2014 season begins). The largest contract ever given to a pitcher remains the seven-year, $161MM deal C.C. Sabathia signed with the Yankees nearly five years ago. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported progress in June between the Dodgers and Kershaw on a seven-year deal worth more than $180MM, with other proposals under discussion such as $250MM over 10 years and $300MM over 12 years. In August, Rosenthal reported that the Dodgers and Kershaw were close to a seven-year, $210MM deal that would have included a player opt-out clause after five years, from which the Dodgers backed off. This month, ESPN's Buster Olney wrote about a $300MM lifetime contract the Dodgers had offered earlier in the season, perhaps the same one to which Rosenthal referred in June. Players must file for arbitration on January 14th next year, with figures to be exchanged on the 17th, but I imagine the Dodgers and Kershaw will be willing to talk about a long-term deal up until Opening Day.
Closer Kenley Jansen posted another fine season, though perhaps his first 30-save campaign will come in 2014 assuming he owns the job from the start of the season. There is no extension model for three-plus closers, so the Dodgers and Jansen would have to forge new territory to get a deal done.
Ellis' production declined from 2012, to .238/.318/.364 in 448 plate appearances. The team could consider trading Ellis to open up a pursuit of Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Butera, a backup type acquired for depth at the trade deadline, will likely be non-tendered.
The Dodgers picked up Baxter from the Mets on a waiver claim this month, suggesting they'll consider tendering him a contract. He'll make something around the league minimum, so it's really about how they want to use the roster spot. Elbert, a 28-year-old lefty reliever, had Tommy John surgery in June and is a non-tender candidate. Belisario was not particularly good this year, with ERAs around 8.00 in June and September. He did have a 3.97 ERA overall and the Dodgers liked him enough to use him in the playoffs, so he's probably safe.
Assuming the Dodgers tender contracts to Kershaw, Jansen, Ellis, Belisario, and Baxter, they're looking at an estimated $29MM for five arbitration eligible players.