Aside from Shohei Ohtani — who agreed to a $30MM deal with the Angels at the end of last season — Soto is the highest-profile player in this year’s arbitration class. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected him for the highest salary of any arb-eligible player, forecasting him to land at $21.5MM. Soto comes in a bit above that and secures a little more than a $6MM raise on last season’s $17.1MM salary.
Acquired from Washington in one of the biggest deadline trades in MLB history, Soto posted a .236/.388/.390 line through his first 228 plate appearances with the Friars. That was below his usual otherworldly standards but still excellent output thanks to a massive 19.3% walk percentage and just a 14.9% strikeout rate. Including his first-half numbers in Washington, he hit .242/.401/.452 with 27 homers over 664 plate appearances.
The Friars will be able to control Soto for one additional season before he’d hit free agency after the 2024 campaign. He’s on track to reach the open market in advance of his age-26 season and trending towards a potential record-setting deal. San Diego surely has interest in working out a long-term agreement with the Boras Corporation client. Soto declined a 15-year, $440MM extension offer from Washington before being traded, ostensibly setting the floor in any negotiations with the Friars.
Hader landed with the Padres in a massive deadline deal as well. Acquired from the Brewers in a surprising swap, he struggled to a 7.31 ERA through his first 16 innings in San Diego. A spike in walks played a role in those anomalous struggles, though Hader was also plagued by an unsustainably high .372 batting average on balls in play against him. He’d only managed a 4.24 ERA over 34 innings with Milwaukee before the trade but struck out an eye-popping 41.8% of his opponents for the Brew Crew.
The lanky southpaw has an established multi-year track record as one of the sport’s most dominant late-game arms. He owns a career 2.71 ERA with a 43.2% strikeout percentage over 332 1/3 big league innings. Hader has collected 132 saves along the way and been selected to the All-Star Game four times. He’s rewarded with one of the largest arbitration deals of the winter himself, narrowly topping his $13.6MM projection.
With over five years of MLB service, Hader avoids arbitration for the final time. He’s on track to hit free agency next winter, when he’ll be headed into his age-30 season. With a typically dominant showing in 2023, Hader would have a chance at topping the reliever record $102MM free agent contract signed by Edwin Díaz this offseason.