- Rockies manager Bud Black shared some positive health news about David Dahl, as Black told the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders and other reporters that Dahl should be “full go” at the start of Spring Training. “He’s engaged, he’s running, he’s lifting weights, he’s swinging at 100 percent. Right now there are no concerns, and medically everybody feels really good about David,” Black said. Dahl was limited to just 19 minor league games in 2017 due to a stress reaction in his rib cage, and his potential return gives Colorado another intriguing piece for its outfield.
- Center fielder Charlie Blackmon could be part of one of the best free agent classes of all-time next year, but he’s open to signing an extension with the Rockies and forgoing a trip to the market. “It’s a two-way street,” the 31-year-old told Thomas Harding of MLB.com. “I really like playing here. It’s been a great place to be. I like the people. I like the teammates. And I’ve also been on a one-year situation for the past three to four years, so it doesn’t really change anything for me. I’m used to that go-out-and-produce mindset. Hopefully, something happens. That would be great.” If something doesn’t happen, the reigning NL batting champion (.331) will play 2018 for $14MM and vie for a third straight star-caliber season.
First baseman Mark Reynolds is hoping to return to the Rockies in 2018, but he’s seeking a big league deal this time around after playing his way onto the team on a minor league pact last season, he tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. “I talked with the Rockies during the winter meetings and Jeff (general manager Jeff Bridich) told me that they had to take care of the bullpen and then see what the money situation was,” says Reynolds. “So now I’m waiting to see what happens.” The 34-year-old Reynolds hit .267/.352/.487 with 30 homers for the Rox last season, though there was a glaring 275-point difference between his OPS at home (.978, 21 homers) and on the road (.703, nine homers). Power is Reynolds’ biggest attribute, but it’s a tough selling point at a time when home runs were hit at an all-time high in 2017.
The deadline for MLB teams to exchange salary arbitration figures with their arbitration-eligible players is today at 1pm ET. As such, there will be a veritable flood of arb agreements piling up in the next few hours — especially in light of a more universal approach to the “file and trial” method for teams. (That is to say, those teams will no longer negotiate one-year deals after arb figures are exchanged and will instead head to a hearing with those players, barring an agreemenr on a multi-year deal.)
Note that you can keep an eye on all of today’s deals using MLBTR’s 2018 Arbitration Tracker, which can be filtered to show only the results of the team you follow and is also sortable by service time and dollar value of the agreement. All projections that are referenced come from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz’s annual compilation of projected arbitration salaries.
Onto today’s landslide of deals…
National League West
- The Rockies have agreed to a $2MM salary with righty Chad Bettis, MLBTR has learned (Twitter link). That’s a fair sight more than his $1.5MM projection. Bettis surely would have had an opportunity to set a bigger platform for himself, but had to battle through testicular cancer before returning to the hill in 2017. Meanwhile, second baseman DJ LeMahieu has settled for a $8.5MM payday in his final year of arbitration, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. That’s just a hair short of the $8.8MM he was pegged for in MLBTR’s projections.
- Giants second baseman Joe Panik is slated to earn $3.45MM in his first season of arb eligibility, Devan Fink of SB Nation was first to tweet. That’s just a hair shy of the $3.5MM that MLBTR projected. Lefty Will Smith has settled at $2.5MM, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). The club has also announced deals with its remaining arb-eligible players, right-handed relievers Sam Dyson ($4.6MM projection), Hunter Strickland ($1.7MM projection), and Cory Gearrin ($1.6MM projection). (H/t John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, on Twitter). Strickland earns $1.55MM, Nightengale tweets.
- The Padres and Freddy Galvis agreed to a $6.825MM deal for his lone season of team control in San Diego, tweets Robert Murray of FanRag Sports. Galvis, who spent the first several seasons of his career in Philadelphia before being traded this winter, had been projected to make $7.4MM. Infielder Cory Spangenberg settled at $1.7MM, Heyman tweets, falling below a $2.0MM projection. San Diego has also reached agreements with righty Kirby Yates and outfielder Matt Szczur, the team announced. Yates will earn $1,062,500, Heyman tweets, which is just shy of his $1.1MM projection. Szczur, meanwhile, will get $950K, a healthy boost over his $800K projection, per Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link).
- The Diamondbacks agreed to a $7.75MM deal with center fielder A.J. Pollock, Murray tweets. Pollock was projected to earn $8.4MM in his final year of eligibility before free agency. Murray also notes that Brad Boxberger is set to earn $1.85MM next year (Twitter link). Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic adds that lefty Andrew Chafin ($1.2MM projection) and the D-backs have a $1.195MM deal in place. Third baseman Jake Lamb, meanwhile, agreed to a $4.275MM deal with the Diamondbacks, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter link). Lamb, eligible for arbitration for the first time, was projected to earn $4.7MM. He’s controllable through 2020. And ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that Chris Herrmann ($1.4MM projection) landed a $1.3MM deal. Righty Taijuan Walker has settled for $4.825MM, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter), which is within range but shy of the $5.0MM he projected for. Lefty Robbie Ray has settled at $3.95MM, per Nightengale (Twitter link), which falls short of his $4.2MM projection. Infielder Nick Ahmed will $1.275MM, per Heyman (via Twitter), which tops the projected figure of $1.1MM. Arizona has also announced that Chris Owings and David Peralta have agreed to terms.
- The Dodgers are in agreement on a $6MM deal with lefty Alex Wood, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). He had projected at $6.4MM. Meanwhile, righty Josh Fields agreed to a $2.2MM deal, tweets Murray. Heyman tweets that Enrique Hernandez will earn $1.6MM. Fields’ projection of $2.2MM was on the money, whereas Hernandez topped his mark by $300K. Fields is controlled through 2019, while Hernandez is controllable through 2020. Southpaw Tony Cingrani gets $2.3MM, Murray tweets, which is just a shade over his $2.2MM projection. Outfielder Joc Pederson has also settled, per J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group (via Twitter), with Beth Harris of the Associated Press reporting a $2.6MM salary that rather handily tops the $2.0MM that MLBTR projected.
National League Central
- All three remaining Cardinals arb-eligibles have agreed to deals, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tweets. Marcell Ozuna will earn $9MM after drawin a much larger $10.9MM projection, Heyman tweets. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had explained that Ozuna likely wouldn’t quite reach the amount the algorithm suggested, though the actual salary still comes in a bit shy of expectations. Lefty Tyler Lyons ($1.3MM projection) receives $1.2MM, per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (via Twitter). The Cards have also reached agreement with Michael Wacha for $5.3MM, per Nightengale (via Twitter); he was projected to earn $5.9MM.
- The Reds agreed to a $860K salary with Anthony DeSclafani, tweets Murray. DeSclafani missed the 2017 season due to arm troubles and had been projected to earn $1.1MM. He’ll remain under Reds control through 2020. Billy Hamilton and the Reds have settled on a one-year deal worth $4.6MM, tweets Murray. A popular trade candidate this offseason, Hamilton was projected to earn $5MM and comes with another two seasons of team control. Murray also conveys that Michael Lorenzen agreed to a $1.3125MM deal, which lines up fairly well with his $1.4MM projection.
- The Cubs have struck a deal with lefty Justin Wilson, agreeing to a one-year, $4.25MM pact, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link). Wilson, who had been projected at $4.3MM, will be a free agent next winter. The Cubs alsoagreed to a $950K salary with infielder Tommy La Stella, tweets MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. La Stella was projected to make $1MM in his first offseason of arbitration eligiblity and can be controlled through 2020. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs have agreed to a $4.175MM salary, per Nightengale (on Twitter). That sum comes in a fair bit shy of his projected $4.9MM projection as a first-time eligible player. The Cubs control Hendricks through the 2020 season. Chicago also agreed with Addison Russell, per Wittenmyer (Twitter link). The shortstop will receive $3.2MM for the coming season.
- Nightengale reports (on Twitter) that the Brewers and breakout closer Corey Knebel settled at $3.65MM. As a Super Two player, Knebel can be controlled through the 2021 season and will be arb-eligible thrice more. He was projected at $4.1MM. MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy tweets that the Brewers and right-hander Jimmy Nelson settled at $3.7MM, which falls $1MM shy of his $4.7MM projection (though some of that discrepancy may be due to Nelson’s shoulder injury). Milwaukee also announced a deal for infielders Jonathan Villar (projected at $3MM) and Hernan Perez (projected at $2.2MM). McCalvy reports that Villar will earn $2.55MM, while terms of Perez’s deal are not yet available.
- The Pirates have avoided arbitration with shortstop Jordy Mercer by settling on a $6.75MM salary for 2018, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Mercer, who’d been projected to earn $6.5MM, is entering his final year of team control and will be a free agent next winter. Biertempfel also reports that Gerrit Cole will earn that same $6.75MM salary in 2018 — a $3MM raise over last year (Twitter link). He has two years of control remaining and had been projected to earn $7.4MM. Righty George Kontos has also agreed to terms, per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Twitter). He had projected for $2.7MM and will receive a smidge more, at $2,725,000, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Twitter link).
National League East
- The Braves reached a $3.4MM deal with righty Arodys Vizcaino, per Jon Heyman of FanRag (Twitter link). He’d been projected at $3.7MM. The Braves and righty Dan Winkler agreed to a $610K salary for the upcoming season, tweets Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Winkler tossed just 14 1/3 innings in the Majors this year as he made his way back from elbow surgery. He’d projected at $800K.
- The Marlins and Miguel Rojas agreed to a $1.18MM deal for 2018, Heyman tweets, placing him north of his $1.1MM projection. Rojas should see additional playing time following the Marlins’ wave of trades this offseason. He’s controlled through 2020. Miami also has a deal in place with infielder Derek Dietrich for $2.9MM, Heyman tweets, after projecting at $3.2MM.
- The Mets were able to settle perhaps their most notable arb case, agreeing to a $7.4MM deal with righty Jacob deGrom, per James Wagner of the New York Times (via Twitter). That’s well shy of his $9.2MM projection, though MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had explained the formula likely overestimated deGrom’s earning power by quite a wide margin. Fellow top righty Noah Syndergaard gets $2.975MM, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter), which goes a fair sight past the $1.9MM projection for the outstanding young starter, whose 2017 season was limited by injury. And reliever AJ Ramos will take home $9.225MM, according to Wagner (via Twitter). That’s just barely past the $9.2MM projection. Wilmer Flores has also avoided arbitration with the Mets, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports (on Twitter). He’ll receive a $3.4MM salary, which falls within $300K of his projected rate. The Mets control Flores through the 2019 campaign. The Mets and right-hander Matt Harvey agreed to a one-year deal worth $5.625MM, tweets Nightengale. Harvey, who is a free agent next winter, had been projected to earn $5.9MM. Meanwhile, Marc Carig of Newsday tweets that Jeurys Familia will earn $7.925MM for the upcoming year, while Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that catcher Travis d’Arnaud will earn $3.475MM in 2018 (Twitter link). Familia, a free agent next winter, was projected at $7.4MM. The Mets control d’Arnaud through 2019, and his projection was $3.4MM. Righty Hansel Robles gets $900K, Heyman tweets.
- Also via Nightengale (Twitter link), the Nationals agreed to a $6.475MM salary for 2018 with right-hander Tanner Roark. That falls about $1MM shy of his $7.5MM projection but still represents a noted raise of $4.315MM for Roark, whom the Nats control through 2019. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post adds that Michael Taylor will earn $2.525MM next year. Taylor is controlled through 2020 and was projected at $2.3MM.
- The Phillies and Maikel Franco settled on a $2.95MM salary for the 2018 season, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com (Twitter link). Franco, a Super Two player who’d been projected at $3.6MM, remains under club control with the Phils through the 2021 season. Second bagger Cesar Hernandez will earn at a $5.1MM rate in 2018, per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki (via Twitter). That beats his $4.7MM projection and wraps up this year’s arb business for the Phillies.
The Rockies have avoided arbitration with outfielder Charlie Blackmon by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $14MM, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (Twitter link). The ACES client had a projected arbitration salary of $13.4MM, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. Matt also took a more in-depth look at Blackmon’s case and some of the intricacies surrounding his projection as part of his Arbitration Breakdown series.
Blackmon, 31, finished fifth in the NL MVP voting this past season on the heels of a brilliant campaign in Colorado. In a league-leading 725 plate appearances, Blackmon hit .331/.399/.601 with 37 homers, taking home the NL batting title. Blackmon also paced the National League in runs scored (137), hits (213), triples (14) and total bases (387). All of that combined to give Blackmon a massive raise of $6.7MM — a 91.7 percent increase over last year’s salary of $7.3MM.
This’ll be the final trip through the arbitration process for Blackmon, who will be a part of one of the best free-agent classes in recent memory next offseason. He’ll be joined by teammates DJ LeMahieu and Chad Bettis in that regard, both of whom are also eligible for arbitration this winter (as can be seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker). Lefty Zac Rosscup caps off the Rockies’ arbitration class.
- The Rockies agreed to a $1,287,500 payday with lefty Chris Rusin, per Nightengale (via Twitter). He’ll fall a bit shy of his $1.4MM projection. Rusin, 31, is fresh off of a strong season in which he compiled a 2.65 ERA in 85 frames. He figures to be a key component of the Colorado bullpen again in 2018.
Recently, I have been discussing some of the higher-profile upcoming arbitration cases as part of MLBTR’s Arbitration Breakdown series. 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. Full arbitration projections for 2018 are also available.
Charlie Blackmon put up some gaudy numbers in 2017, hitting .331 to go along with 37 home runs and 104 RBIs. As a result, my model projected him for a very high raise. However, the model also utilizes something called the Kimbrel Rule– which states that no player gets projected for an increase more than $1MM higher than the record raise for his service class. This limits Blackmon to a $6.1MM raise, which lands him at a $13.4MM projection for the 2018 season. Truth be told, though, the model actually spit out a $16.8MM salary estimate!
There are two different run environment factors to consider for Blackmon that could be inflating the way his number would be viewed by an arbitration panel. Blackmon plays his home games at Coors Field, a notorious home run park. FanGraphs gives Rockies’ players a 116 park factor, suggesting Blackmon’s 37 home runs might be the equivalent of 32 home runs in a more neutral setting.
Further inflating Blackmon’s home run total is something that will affect a great number of cases this year—the dramatically increased level of home runs throughout the league. This past season set a league record with 6,105 total home runs—this was 26 percent higher than the average from the last five years. So when I look at players with similar totals over the last five years, it is unclear whether an arbitration panel (or teams and agents that are negotiating in the shadow of what an arbitration panel would say) would treat home runs from Blackmon as similar to other players with the same number of home runs, or as someone with maybe 26 percent fewer home runs.
My model does not adjust for league or park home run environment in this way; in general the data has shown that run environment is not a big consideration in arbitration. Hitters in high-scoring years benefit from being compared to hitters in lower-scoring years. Pitchers in low-scoring years benefit from being compared to pitchers in high-scoring years.
If you knock down Blackmon’s home run total by league and park effects, he lands somewhere around the equivalent of 25 home runs in a neutral park in a prior season. But of course, that may not be what the panel considers. Most likely, they will just compare him (favorably) to the current record-holder in this service class, which is Chase Headley from 2013. Headley hit .286 with 31 homers, 115 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in the platform season for his final trip through the arbitration process.
Blackmon outperformed Headley in both homers and average, and he also stole 14 bags, further helping his case. It seems likely to Blackmon will be seen as favorable to Headley — especially considering the fact that Headley’s case is already five years old — so I think earning a raise north of $6MM seems likely.
If we’re looking for other recent players with a lot of home runs who reached arbitration, Todd Frazier’s name emerges. He hit 40 home runs in his platform season, but at .225, his average was more than a hundred points below Blackmon’s. Frazier got a $3.75MM raise, which Blackmon should easily crush.
Eric Hosmer is another potential comparable, but he’s also clearly a player with an inferior case to that of Blackmon. In 2016, Hosmer’s platform before his final trip through arbitration, he hit .266 with 25 homers and 104 RBIs. Blackmon has him handled in every category, so Hosmer’s $4MM raise is another example of a potential floor for Blackmon’s raise.
I think it’s clear that Blackmon is going to set a new record. The “Kimbrel Rule” has worked very well since its inception, and I think it will apply well here. Look for Blackmon to land somewhere between $13-14MM, with some chance of going slightly above that if and when he settles on a one-year deal for the 2018 season.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
We’ll track the latest minor signings and other transactions here …
- The Brewers have brought back left-hander Nick Ramirez on a minor-league deal, per a club announcement. Brewer Nation first tweeted word of the signing. He converted from first base to the mound in 2017, turning in rather impressive results. In 79 1/3 frames over 49 appearances, all but one of which came at Double-A, Ramirez ran a 1.36 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. It obviously remains to be seen whether the former fourth-round pick can earn a shot at the majors, but it seems promising that he was able to throttle both right-handed (.214/.260/.305) and left-handed hitters (.167/.273/.240) while working in a multi-inning role.
- First baseman/outfielder Kyle Jensen has a minors deal with the Giants, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). The 29-year-old has only seen brief MLB time but has generally produced quality numbers at Triple-A. In 1,793 plate appearances at the highest level of the minors, he carries a .266/.341/.488 batting line with 178 home runs — though also over a thousand strikeouts. Jensen had a six-game stretch last year with Japan’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, but otherwise did not appear professionally. A former 12th round draft pick of the Marlins, Jensen has also spent time in recent years with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks organizations.
- Also signing a minor-league pact is lefty Keith Hessler, who’ll join the Rockies, according to Cotillo (Twitter link). Hessler, 28, has 34 MLB frames under his belt, over which he has allowed 21 earned runs while recording 23 strikeouts and issuing 17 walks. He has mostly plied his trade in the upper minors in recent years, though he also took an indy ball detour last season. At times, Hessler has produced solid groundball numbers and been very hard on opposing lefties, though neither really held true in his most recent showing. In 45 1/3 Triple-A frames with the Padres in 2017, Hessler carried a 4.57 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9.
The Pirates announced on Thursday that they’ve claimed righty Shane Carle off waivers from the Rockies and designated right-hander Johnny Barbato for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. Carle was designated for assignment last week when the Rockies signed Wade Davis.
Carle, 26, made his Major League debut with the Rockies last year, tossing four innings and yielding three runs on six hits and no walks with four punchouts. He averaged 93.6 mph on his heater in that brief four-inning sample and spent the bulk of the year in Triple-A, where he struggled to a 5.37 ERA in an extremely hitter-friendly setting. Carle averaged 7.3 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 with a 43.9 percent ground-ball rate in Albuquerque — his second go-around at that level.
Carle was initially drafted by the Pirates back in 2013, though Pittsburgh traded him to Colorado in exchange for righty Rob Scahill about 18 months later. He has a pair of minor league options remaining, so the Bucs can send him to Triple-A this spring without needing to expose him to waivers.
Barbato, 25, posted a 4.08 ERA with 7.2 K/9, 5.7 BB/9 and a 37.9 percent grounder rate in 28 2/3 frames out of the Pittsburgh ’pen last season. He turned in more encouraging K/BB numbers and a solid 3.06 ERA in 35 1/3 Triple-A innings with the Pirates, but Barbato also averaged a gaudy 1.78 HR/9 while pitching in Triple-A. That, paired with his control problems in the Majors, may have made him expendable in the Pirates’ eyes.
Barbato averages better than 94 mph on his fastball and has averaged better than a strikeout per inning over the vast majority of his career, including upper-minors stints with the Yankees and Pirates in recent seasons. He still has a minor league option remaining, so another club in need of bullpen depth could pick him up and hope to better help him harness his command with a change of scenery.
After a lost season due to a stress reaction in his rib cage, Rockies outfielder David Dahl has been cleared to begin swinging a bat, per Thomas Harding of MLB.com. The 23-year-old Dahl, a longtime top prospect, turned heads with a .315/.359/.500 slash in 63 games as a rookie in 2016, but his injury prevented him from logging a single game in 2017. A November MRI, however, revealed that Dahl’s injury has finally healed completely, according to Harding. Dahl has since been performing rotational exercises and building muscle mass as a means of strengthening the problematic area and avoiding similar issues in 2018. Dahl explains to Harding that he attempted to work back numerous times in 2017, but while he’d feel strong after two to three weeks of rest at a time, his symptoms would resurface upon ramping up workouts. Dahl also details changes to his diet and nutrition, both with an eye toward maintaining muscle mass, that he feels will help him stay healthy and emerge as a factor for the Rockies.