As a standard course of business every spring, teams reach agreement on contracts with their pre-arbitration players. Since pre-arb players have virtually no negotiating leverage, their salaries aren’t far beyond the MLB minimum ($570.5K), and most teams now adopt a particular formula for assigning modest raises to pre-arbitration players who have performed above and beyond expectations.
When a player doesn’t accept this agreement, it has no change on his contractual status with the team. It just means that his contract is “renewed,” and the team will impose the player’s salary for the coming season. For a further explanation of the renewal process, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd provided an outline in a YouTube video last year.
Why would a player not accept the terms of his team’s raise? Often, it is just a matter of “principle,” as Cardinals righty Jack Flaherty (who had his last two pre-arbitration salaries renewed) said last year, as a player who excels during a season simply feels he is worth more than the minor raise a team is offering. Occasionally, you’ll see a player look for a more substantive raise, as Mike Trout’s camp asked for a $1MM salary for the 2013 season, following a 2012 campaign that saw Trout finish second in AL MVP voting in his first full year in the big leagues.
While Trout didn’t get his $1MM ask, some clubs have indeed rewarded players with pre-arb salaries worth well above (by a few hundred thousand dollars, in some cases) the minimum, both as a nod to performance and perhaps as a way to continue good relations with a player and his agent in advance of extension talks.
Here is a list of players whose contracts have been renewed for the 2021 season. As you’ll note, the members of this group have already enjoyed significant early-career success.
- Zac Gallen: The Diamondbacks right-hander finished ninth in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2020, and has a 2.78 ERA over 152 career MLB innings.
- Kyle Lewis: The Mariners outfielder took a renewal on the heels of his Rookie Of The Year campaign.
- Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil: The two Mets regulars took renewals. As noted by Mike Puma of the New York Post, Alonso’s 2019 NL Rookie Of The Year campaign got him a larger-than-expected salary bump to $652,521 for the 2020 season “as a goodwill gesture” from the team.
- Ian Anderson: The Braves righty made a big impact in his first MLB season, with a 1.95 ERA over 32 1/3 innings. Anderson also has the least amount of big league service time (0.094 days) of any player on this list. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets that Anderson will earn $575K while in the majors and $142,978 in the minor leagues.