The Houston Astros submitted their arbitration bids yesterday after signing fellow arb-eligibles Lance McCullers Jr., Will Harris and Brad Peacock to one-year deals. Houston failed to reach agreements with shortstop Carlos Correa, starter Gerrit Cole and swingman Chris Devenski. All three, at least for the time being, will head towards arbitration hearings to determine their 2019 salaries.
Correa is coming off a bit of a down year, while injuries have kept him to no more than 110 games in each of the last two seasons. He filed for a $5MM salary for 2019, while the Astros countered at $4.25MM. MLBTR projected a $4.625MM contract for Correa in this, his first year of arbitration. Both sides are surely hoping for a healthy bounceback campaign from Correa, a core piece of their championship winning club of 2017 who struggled to the tune of .239/.323/.405 last season. Of course, most clubs would be pretty thrilled to get a 101 wRC+ from a 23-year-old shortstop.
Devenski, meanwhile, filed for $1.65MM, with Houston countering at $1.4MM – the same number MLBTR projected for the righty. Devenski has primarily come out of the pen for Houston, pitching to a 2.74 ERA over his three major-league seasons. Last year was the worst campaign of Devenski’s three in the majors, though he was still serviceable in 47 1/3 innings, which included one start (4.18 ERA, 4.49 FIP, 4.01 xFIP). Like Correa, Devenski has two further seasons of arbitration eligibility before hitting free agency after 2021.
As reported yesterday, Cole filed at $13.5MM, while the Astros countered at $11.425MM. The rather large difference of $2.075MM is understandable given this will be Cole’s last time through arbitration before hitting free agency. He had a stellar 2018 in his first year with the Astros, 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 12.4 K/9, a rather ridiculous number across 200 1/3 innings. No doubt it was a tremendous season, good for 5.3 rWAR, a far cry better than the 2.3 rWAR he accrued per season in Pittsburgh, which definitely complicates the valuation process for all parties.
There is, of course, still time for Houston to forego arbitration with Correa/Cole/Devenski, though the common “file and trial” practice means teams typically stop negotiating one-year deals at this juncture. It is not uncommon for parties to negotiate long-term deals during this period.