Every team takes a different approach to the negotiation of contracts with players who have yet to qualify for arbitration. Technically, there’s no obligation to pay them any more than the league minimum salary, which currently sits at $535K. But all teams make some allowance for increases above that amount. Some use formulas with varying inputs; others appear largely ad hoc. Some range well over the minimum; others allow for only de minimis bumps. Read here for more on the process; better still, check out Zach Links’s reporting on the subject from early 2014.
We already learned recently of one notable 2017 pre-arb contract situation, as the Red Sox elected to renew Mookie Betts. A renewal occurs when the club can’t get the player to agree to the salary. The result is the same — the player gets what the team is willing to give — but the player gets to make clear his disapproval. In that case, Betts still received a relatively massive payday, with his $950K salary trailing only Mike Trout (in 2014) among pre-arb players.
Here are a few more notable salaries that have been reported since:
- The Astros ended up renewing their own pre-arb star, Carlos Correa, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag. But he’ll get quite a bit less than Betts; in fact, for the second straight year, Correa will earn only the league-minimum rate of pay. (To be fair, he’s also one service class behind Betts.) As MLBTR previously reported, Houston has in prior years utilized a formula-based system that allows players to earn relatively meager boosts over the minimum, though it’s not known whether that specific approach is still followed. Clearly, though, Correa — one of the game’s most exciting young talents — would have been offered at least something more than the minimum. Presumably, then, he was docked back down owing to his refusal to sign, which is another element the Astros have reportedly employed. It obviously remains to be seen whether there’ll be any long-term strain on the relationship between player and team, but it’s not hard to see the possibility.
- There’s perhaps less cause for angst between the Mets and young ace Noah Syndergaard, who’ll earn $605,500 in 2016 with his renewal, as Heyman tweets. That’s certainly a reasonably significant increase over the minimum, and it falls in line with the team’s prior approach to setting arb salaries, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. Syndergaard was hoping to earn a bit more, and declined to sign on to the team’s offer, but New York did not apply any penalty in setting the renewal price. It seems that the relationship between player and team remains harmonious, per Sherman. Syndergaard, unlike Correa, can also look forward to much higher earnings in the near future, as he’s nearly certain to achieve Super Two status.
- Finally, the Nationals have agreed to a $554,900 salary with emergent star Trea Turner, according to Heyman (via Twitter). That’s rather a healthy rate of pay for a player who’ll enter the year with just 135 days of service, though Turner’s outstanding half-season of work in 2016 — .342/.370/.567 with 13 home runs and 33 steals over 324 plate appearances — more than justifies such an increase. With Turner’s deal in the books, the Nats were able to line up with all 22 of their arb-eligible players. Looking ahead for the youngster, who’ll be moving back to his accustomed shortstop position this year, the biggest impact on his earnings (beyond his play) won’t be the team’s decision on how much to pay him before he reaches arbitration. Instead, it’ll be whether he can qualify for Super Two status. Without a 2015 cameo in the books, he wouldn’t have much of a shot; as things stand, he’ll be touch-and-go to reach arb eligibility a year ahead of the pack.