Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.
Todd Frazier enters his first year of arbitration this winter coming off a career year. In 660 PA, Frazier hit .273, stole 20 bases, smashed 29 home runs and collected 80 RBIs. The Reds’ third baseman has some solid pre-platform year numbers as well, having already accumulated 44 home runs and 155 RBIs before 2014, as well as 10 steals and a .249 average in 1186 PA. Several players have entered arbitration with similar numbers in recent years, but Frazier has somewhat of a leg up on many of them. As a result, my arbitration model projects him to get $4.6MM this winter. While I think that is more likely to be high than low, I do not think he is likely to miss this mark by much.
One promising comparable for Frazier could be Jason Heyward in 2013. He earned $3.65MM after 650 PA with 27 home runs and 21 stolen bases, along with 82 RBI and a .269 average. Basically, his platform season is a dead ringer for Frazier’s but Frazier’s pre-platform power numbers are better, as Heyward hit 32 homers (12 less than Frazier) and 114 RBIs (41 less than Frazier). Both had similar averages in their pre-platform years (Heyward hit .255), and Heyward stole 20 bases to Frazier’s ten. Frazier also had amassed 1186 pre-platform PA, to Heyward’s 1077. Since Heyward is so similar to Frazier in his platform year, yet Frazier clearly has him beat in his pre-platform years, it seems likely that Frazier will beat Heyward’s $3.65MM mark. The fact that salaries have grown over the last couple years also factors into Frazier’s higher projected salary.
CAA Sports, Frazier’s agency, could try to argue for Dan Uggla on the high side. Uggla earned $5.35MM in his first year of arbitration, although that was six years ago and thus less likely to be used as a comparable. Furthermore, Uggla was a second baseman, and Frazier is more apt to be compared to outfielders or other corner infielders. This being said, Uggla’s case is somewhat similar — he had 32 home runs and 92 RBI in 2008, so his power numbers bested Frazier’s 29 and 80 in his platform year, and he also had better numbers in his pre-platform years (58 HR and 178 RBI) than Frazier (44 HR and 155 RBI). Frazier had a slightly better platform-year average (.273 versus .260) though his .249 average over his pre-platform years was lower than Uggla’s .263 mark. Overall, Uggla’s $5.35MM number seems like the absolute ceiling of what Frazier can expect to earn.
A couple other players between Heyward’s $3.65MM and Uggla’s $5.35MM are possible comparables for Frazier as well. Pedro Alvarez agreed to a $4.25MM deal last year after having better power numbers, but a lower average and fewer steals than Frazier both in his platform and pre-platform years. Alvarez had 36 HR and 100 RBI in his platform year and 50 HR and 168 RBI in his pre-platform years. Alvarez’s averages, however, in his platform (.233) and pre-platform years (.237) fall short of Frazier’s .273 and .249, and he only had two steals both in his platform and pre-platform years, falling well short of Frazier’s 20 and 10 steals in each respective period. Overall, depending on how power gets treated relative to average and steals, Alvarez could be seen as a superior or inferior case to Frazier.
Another possibility is comparing Frazier to Mark Trumbo, who earned $4.8MM last season. Trumbo had a .234 average, but 34 HR and 100 RBI with five stolen bases in his platform year, and he hit .259 with 61 home runs and 184 RBIs with 13 stolen bases in his pre-platform years. Trumbo has better numbers across the board in his pre-platform years, but his platform year again asks the question of whether power or batting average and stolen bases are more important. Given all the factors that could eliminate Uggla — 2B vs. 3B, 2008 vs. 2014, etc. — from being a comparable to Frazier, Trumbo’s $4.8MM will in all likelihood be seen as the true ceiling for what Frazier can earn in arbitration.
My best guess is that Alvarez is seen as the most appropriate comparable for Frazier. Alvarez has something of the edge in power numbers while Frazier has the edge in the batting average/stolen base numbers, though there isn’t really a huge gap in any of the categories. Frazier could potentially earn a slight increase representing inflation over Alvarez if they are seen as similar, however. While the model projection of $4.6 is probably too high, I think the Reds third baseman will get relatively close to that number.