As we arrive at a major date on MLB’s offseason calendar, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:
1. Arbitration Exchange Deadline
The deadline for teams to exchange salary figures with players eligible for arbitration is set for today. The deadline was reportedly moved up from its original date of Friday, January 12 last month via joint agreement between MLB and the MLBPA, though news of the change only broke for the first time last night. A deadline for players and teams to come to contract agreements avoiding arbitration has been set for noon CT today, while salary figures will be exchanged by 7pm CT this evening. While teams and players can continue negotiating beyond the exchange of salary figures, teams have increasingly opted for a “file and trial” approach to arbitration in recent years, cutting off talks on pure one-year deals once figures are exchanged.
Today’s deadline should spur plenty of activity around the league throughout the day, as every team in baseball has at least two players with whom they’ll need to come to an agreement this afternoon or exchange salary figures with this evening. Most notably, each of the Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees, Marlins, and Dodgers have ten or more such players. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected salaries for all arbitration-eligible players back in October. Yankees star outfielder Juan Soto leads the pack this year with a projected salary of $33MM that would break the record set by two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani last winter.
2. Could the market for starting pitching pick up soon?
With left-hander Shota Imanaga off the board after reportedly agreeing to a four-year, $53MM deal with the Cubs, could more movement on the starting pitching market be on the horizon? The trio of southpaws at the top of the starting pitching market this winter has been whittled down to two as only Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery remain available, though it doesn’t appear that either player is close to signing at the moment. That said, rumors have begun to pick up in recent days regarding right-hander Marcus Stroman, who is generally regarded as one of the better arms still on the board. Meanwhile, White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease remains the focus of the rumor mill in terms of trade candidates as all indications point toward a deal coming together in the coming weeks even as the club’s reported asking price for their top starter remains quite hefty.
3. Kuhnel exiting DFA limbo:
Astros right-hander Joel Kuhnel was designated for assignment last week after the club claimed fellow righty Declan Cronin off waivers from the White Sox. Today marks one week since Kuhnel’s DFA, meaning a resolution is expected sometime today. Kuhnel, 29 next month, spent his entire career in Cincinnati prior to a cash deal shipping him to Houston back in June. The righty sports a lackluster 6.02 ERA in 76 career appearances at the big league level, though his 4.55 career FIP improves his overall resume somewhat. While Kuhnel’s 19.3% strikeout rate is nothing to write home about, he does sport an impressive 52.5% groundball rate for his career. That could spur an interested club to take a chance on Kuhnel, claiming him off waivers and adding him to their own 40-man roster. If no team opts to do so, the Astros can attempt to outright the right-hander to Triple-A as non-roster depth, though Kuhnel would have the ability to reject such an assignment after previously being outrighted by the Reds back in 2020.