Due to the lockout putting MLB business on ice for over three months, there are many players who don’t yet have a finalized salary for the 2022 campaign. Any arbitration-eligible players that couldn’t come to an agreement with their team will soon participate in a hearing as the season is in progress. The Phillies have one such player, right-hander Zach Eflin, who is hoping for a $6.9MM figure while the club will be arguing for the lower figure of $5.15MM. (MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected $6MM, a number pretty close to the midpoint between the two parties.)
Eflin recently spoke about the situation to Matt Gelb of the Athletic. “I know what I bring to this club every fifth day,” Eflin said. “And I see my true value more than what their offer was. So that’s really all I have to say. I’m curious to see what they have to say in a courtroom. So, it’ll be interesting, but I’m looking forward to it.”
If the pitcher is particularly motivated for this fight, it’s possible that he’s still holding a grudge from an incident in 2019. The Phillies optioned Eflin, despite the fact that he was pitching well, in order to get an extra bench player on the roster. They had a double-header coming up that week, which lined up with Eflin’s upcoming start. Since teams are allowed to bring up an extra player for double-headers, they were able to option Eflin, call him up as the extra man for the double-header and then call him up for real for the start after that. Because of these roster shenanigans, Eflin ended up missing out on nine days of MLB salary, costing him about $20K. (According to this Gelb piece from the time of the incident.) “Players don’t forget that,” Eflin said in today’s article. “I’m looking forward to the hearing and seeing what they have to say about me. I feel like I’m going to learn a lot about the business side of the game.” The 28-year-old is heading into free agency at the end of this season.
Some other notes from the Senior Circuit…
- After a disappointing 2020 season, Eric Lauer began 2021 at the Brewers’ alternate training site. “I wasn’t super happy about it,” Lauer told Will Sammon of The Athletic. However, the lefty used the opportunity to do some experimenting, taking some time in a bullpen session to mimic the mechanics of other pitchers, such as Aroldis Chapman and Tim Lincecum. To his surprise and delight, his velocity starting ticking up. That extra gas helped propel Lauer to an excellent bounceback campaign, as he ended up throwing 118 2/3 innings of 3.19 ERA ball last year, with a 23.9% strikeout rate and 8.4% walk rate. The results are even better in Lauer’s four starts so far this year. Small sample caveats apply, but he has a 1.93 ERA with an incredible 36.6% strikeout rate and 5.4% walk rate. Brewers fans, or any baseball fan interested in the art of pitching, will want to check out the full piece for more details on Lauer’s tremendous turnaround.
- Cardinals’ infield prospect Nolan Gorman is off to a tremendous start to his season. The 21-year-old (22 next week) already has 11 home runs through 20 Triple-A games and is hitting .321/.372/.769 overall. That has led to a chorus of voices among fans in St. Louis for him to be called up, especially with a few of the big leaguers struggling. Shortstop Paul DeJong has been under the spotlight for his shortcomings at the plate for a few years now. His overall offensive production has declined in each season of his career, according to wRC+. After a 123 in his rookie year in 2017, he’s put up a 103, 101, 87, 86 and a 55 in 2022 so far. Prior to the 2018 campaign, the club signed DeJong to an extension that runs through 2023. Despite that, he doesn’t have unlimited rope with the organization. “We’re still trying to figure out what we have here with (DeJong), so we’re trying to give him every opportunity possible,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak tells Katie Woo of The Athletic. “If things don’t change trajectory or direction, then ultimately we’re probably going to have to do something different. Nolan would get more of a maj0r-league opportunity at that point. I think we have to remind ourselves that we’re a month into the season; we’ve had an odd first couple of weeks with weather and obviously a truncated spring training. You’re seeing a lot of offensive stats down in general in this league, so we want to remain patient.” The plan to merely switch Gorman in for DeJong is complicated, however, by the fact that the Cardinals are an organization that values defense so highly. As noted in the piece, Gorman only recently switched from being a primary third baseman to playing second base, as he’s blocked at third by Nolan Arenado. Bringing Gorman up to man the keystone would involve sliding Tommy Edman over to shortstop, a position where he only has 17 games of MLB experience. For the time being, it seems Cardinals’ fans yearning for Gorman’s promotion will have to keep waiting.