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January 14, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Some Salary Arbitration Cases to Watch

by Maury Brown

It’s the start of the New Year, and with it, here comes MLB salary arbitration. The MLBPA has released the list of 142 players, and with it, between now and mid-Feb. every one of them will have their contracts in hand before or shortly after Spring Training starts.

(See the complete listing, along with 2011 Major League Service Time, team, position, and how many years they’ve been in the process)

A few players stand out (as they do each year). Here’s are some quick snapshots:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury – Second in AL MVP voting, this will be Ellsbury’s second time through salary arb. On Jan. 18 of last year, Ellsbury avoided arb with a $2.4 million deal that had incentives that paid him an additional $50,000 for having 600 plate appearances. That salary increase was up 383% from his $497,000 he got in the last season of club control in 2009. It sounds like a lot, but really, it wasn’t. Jacoby was injured through most of 2010 and had career lows in nearly every statistical category. Expect a hefty payday for Ellsbury this time around. If not a multi-year deal, something close to $8 million for a one-year deal is not out of the realm of possibility. He ranked fourth in the league by BVORP (69.2) and third by BWARP (8.6). The big question is, was 2011 it a career spike? Given smashed many of his former career highs (119 R in 2011 compared to 98 R in 2009; 212 H compared to 188 H in 2009; 32 HR compared to 9 in 2008, and; 69.2 VORP compared to 32.9 VORP in 2009) and it’s possible.
     
  • Clayton Kershaw – This is one to watch exceptionally close and ties closely to another player entering arb (again), Tim Lincecum. Kershaw enters as a Super Two, just as Lincecum did.. Kershaw does so after winning the NL Cy Young. Ditto for Lincecum in 2010. Here’s what’s to watch… Where the Giants gave Lincecum a 2-year, $23 million deal, something that some analysts thought thwarted a large increase through salary arb, the Dodgers, stuck in bankruptcy till likely April, might not be able to do. On the other hand, if the Dodgers can get Kershaw to bite on a back-loaded deal, it places salary in the hands of new owners when the club is sold. Either way, watch this one very closely.
     
  • Tim Lincecum – Speaking of Lincecum, it’s likely that the logic employed by Tim and his agent Dan Lozano was, the 2-yr deal in 2010 gets solid guaranteed money, and another 2 stabs at salary arb after if yet another extension isn’t reached. Lincecum in 2011 wasn’t Lincecum in 2010, but he’s still got solid numbers and draws at the gate, something that works as an intangible.
     
  • David Price – Price was 14th in the league in quality starts last year, ranked 9th in Ks. His WARP was nearly flat compared from 2010 (3.2 in ’10 compared to 3.4 in ’11). Price is entering salary arb for the first time. He’s going to be in the last year of his signing bonus money ($1.5 million), but is a candidate to move maybe into the $5 million to $6 million range through the arb process.

Maury Brown is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Maury's other articles. You can contact Maury by clicking here

Related Content:  Salary Arbitration

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