Right-hander Shelby Miller has won his arbitration hearing against the D-backs, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (via Twitter). The Roc Nation Sports client will earn $4.9MM in 2018 as opposed to the $4.7MM figure that was submitted by the team. His $4.9MM payday lines up with his projected arbitration salary from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
Miller, of course, underwent Tommy John surgery early in the season, thus making it somewhat of a surprise to see him earn a modest raise. However, he did make four starts and post a 4.09 ERA with 20 strikeouts against 12 walks in 22 innings, and the arbitration panel apparently deemed that small sample of work worthy of a modest boost in pay. Arizona’s $4.7MM submission was merely a repeat of the salary that Miller earned in 2017, so their proposal was simply to not offer a raise at all and renew him at his previous rate of pay.
The season-ending surgery for Miller served to create a second consecutive disappointing season in Arizona after the D-backs infamously gave up Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson in order to acquire Miller two offseasons ago. However, it’s worth noting that Miller’s velocity, swinging-strike rate and overall strike percentage had demonstrated legitimate improvement through his first four starts after a nightmarish 2016 season in which he logged a 6.15 ERA in 101 innings.
Those 2016 struggles prompted the D-backs to, somewhat stunningly, option Miller to Triple-A Reno. (The move itself wasn’t necessarily stunning in light of his significant struggles, but it’d have been borderline unbelievable prior to Opening Day 2016.) That minor league demotion cost Miller enough service time to buy the Diamondbacks another year of control over Miller, who can still be controlled for another two seasons via arbitration. If he returns healthy in 2018, his raise for the 2019 season will now have a marginally higher base point.
The $200K discrepancy between the figures submitted by the two sides may seem like an exceptionally small gap to bridge in such a dramatic fashion. But, Miller’s modest raise will now serve as a data point in all future arbitration scenarios (for both the D-backs and the 29 other clubs), and teams often feel obligated to take a hard line against making too many concessions and progressing the market for future waves of arbitration negotiations. That’s a subject which MLBTR explored at length a few years back, for those interested in reading more about the team’s viewpoints on arbitration matters.