Over the coming days, I am discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I 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. 2020 projections are available right here.
Francisco Lindor enters his second year of arbitration eligibility coming off a $10.55MM salary in 2019, yet another solid campaign. Lindor hit .284 with 32 home runs and 74 runs batted in, stole 22 bases, and accumulated 654 plate appearances on the way to his fourth straight All-Star appearance and his second Gold Glove. My model projects Lindor earn $16.7MM, good for a $6.15MM raise.
It is very difficult to find comparable players for the talented shortstop. Looking for middle infielders from the past half-decade who hit 25 home runs going into their second year of eligibility provides only two names. Both players are second basemen and have much weaker cases than Lindor. In 2017, Jonathan Schoop batted .293 with 32 home runs and 105 runs batted in, stealing just a single base. The same year, Scooter Gennett hit .295 with 27 homers, 97 runs batted in and just three stolen bases. They got raises of $5.0 and $3.2 million, respectively. Considering Lindor stole way more stolen bases and plays a more premium position, he clearly has a better case. He should earn north of the $5MM raise that Schoop received three years ago.
Looking for a shortstop is clearly not a fruitful endeavor, though. The largest ever raise for a second-time-eligible shortstop was $2.83MM for Brandon Crawford in 2016. But he only hit .256, belted just 21 home runs, and stole a mere six bases. His case then was clearly inferior to Lindor’s now.
If we expand to look at other positions beyond the middle infield, some other potential names emerge. George Springer got a two-year deal when he had a similar .283/34/85 performance two seasons ago—although only with five stolen bases—but he had filed for a $6.6MM raise, while the Astros offered a $4.6MM increase. His two-year agreement probably assumes the midpoint. If nothing else, the $4.6MM figure is a floor if Schoop’s $5 million was not.
Justifying the model’s estimate of a $6.15MM raise is harder. But some of the players who have landed raises in that neighborhood had stronger performances. Khris Davis got a $5.5MM raise two years ago after belting 43 home runs and knocking in 110 runs. Davis hit at his standard .247 clip, but his power numbers may make him a ceiling for Lindor. Of course, the positional adjustment is hard. Marcell Ozuna picked up a $5.5MM raise in 2018, too, after he hit .312/37/124 as an outfielder. Still, one could argue that Lindor’s .284/32/74 line is inferior.
I think that somewhere between $5MM and $5.5MM is a reasonable guess for Lindor, which would put him around $15.5MM to $16MM. The model is clearly struggling to find where Lindor’s salary as is, just like we have done in this article, but I do think it landed high.