With the World Series wrapping up this week, the cold months of the baseball calendar year are fast-approaching. Fortunately, this offseason will be just as foggy as the offseasons of past with the shortened 2020 season and determining next year’s salary for arbitration-eligible players.
For those not familiar with the arbitration process, players that have accumulated more than three years and less than six years of time in the majors are eligible for the arbitration process. “Time in the majors” means any days spent on the active roster (26-man) and the injured list. 172 days is equivalent to one year
on the Manfredian Calendar in Major League Baseball terms. Players with less than three years of major-league time are considered pre-arbitration or “pre-arb” and typically make league-minimum, or close to it, unless the team wants to pay that player more. After six years of service time, the player is a free agent.
The player and the team will talk and exchange salary figures throughout the offseason and if they come to a mutual agreement on a salary for next season, then the process is completed. However, if the two sides cannot align on a dollar value, they must each submit a number and go before an arbitrator. The arbitrator will then hear both sides’ arguments and then the arbitrator will choose one of the sides’ salary figures; it cannot be a number other than the team’s or the player’s number. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the Minnesota Twins and Jose Berrios went this route last winter with the Twins’ number being chosen. The same happened with Kyle Gibson in 2018. This season, the deadline to exchange and submit numbers is noon Central on January 15.
Sometimes a player and team won’t make it as far as exchanging numbers. Some clubs choose to non-tender a player, which means that the team has decided to part ways with the player and not offer a contract for the next season. Teams have until 7p Central on December 2 to decide if they will offer a contract to arbitration-eligible players.
Now to the good stuff! MLB Trade Rumors has been posting arbitration projections for many years and are amazingly in the ballpark (no pun intended) when it comes to the salary figures. Of course, with a pandemic-shortened season, it’s quite a shot in the dark to project any of these numbers. Nonetheless, MLBTR has done it again and released their salary projections for arbitration-eligible players (link). Seven of Minnesota’s players are eligible for arbitration this winter. Who are they and what are their projections?
Note: The projection I’m using is the second set of numbers from MLBTR’s site. MLBTR explains it as... “Extrapolates all counting stats to would-be 162-game totals. One home run becomes 2.7 home runs.”
José Berríos, P: $7.5 million
La MaKina earned a B on the Twinkie Town Rating Scale courtesy of Matt earlier this week, thanks to a mid-season turnaround of his performance. After earning a pro-rated amount from $4.025 million this season, $7.5 million might be a bit of a bump, but not overly so for a #2 starter. In comparison, Homer Bailey made a prorated amount from $7 million this season. LOL! Berrios will be entering his second year of arbitration.
Byron Buxton, CF: $5.9 million
The star center fielder turned in a good season and even garnered some Twins MVP votes from Twinkie Town staff and community members. After earning a percentage of $3.075 million this season, a raise of almost $2.9 million is ideal for a strong defensive player and team influencer. Buck is entering his third year of arbitration as a super-two, someone who accumulates an additional year of arbitration for having between two and three years of service time. Super-twos are determined every offseason.
Tyler Duffey, RP: $2.6 million
After turning in a career year, Duff Man will be expecting a raise. As probably one of the more seasoned arms in the bullpen, Duffey’s projection of $2.6 million is worth it after earning a cut of $1.2 million this season. He enters this winter in his second year of arbitration eligibility.
Mitch Garver, C: $1.9 million
The award-winning backstop enters the arbitration field for the first time in his career. After winning a Silver Slugger award for his performance in 2019 as part of the Bomba Squad, GarvSauce did not meet expectations in 2020. After earning a pro-rated amount of $620,000 this season, $1.9 million might be an overshoot, but if the front office believes 2020 was a sophomore slump, then they might pay within that range. I would expect lower than this, though.
Taylor Rogers, RP: $6.9 million
Rogers is another seasoned arm in the bullpen, and after assuming a mostly-full-time closer role in 2019, he - like Garver - did not fulfill expectations this season. After earning a portion of $4.45 million this season, it’s hard to see the Twins offering the southpaw near $6.9 million. In fact - WARNING: hot take incoming! - I would tag Rogers as a slight non-tender candidate. Rogers is also in his third year of arbitration as a super-two.
Eddie Rosario, LF: $12.9 million
It’s been talked about for maybe over a year now: Rosario is not a fit on the Twins anymore. Those talks are louder now more than ever with the advent of the Brent Rooker and Alex Kirilloff careers. Since MLBTR’s projections came out, many fans are confident that Rosie will be non-tendered after earning a slice of $7.75 million this season and that $12.9 million is too much for the left fielder’s services.
Matt Wisler, RP: $1.8 million
The slider specialist is entering year two of arbitration this winter. He posted career-best numbers from the bullpen as well and the Twins could stand to keep him rather than non-tender him.
Southpaw Caleb Thielbar is listed as being in his first year of arbitration this winter according to RosterResource, but MLBTR doesn’t provide any projections. The Twins could easily non-tender Meat Raffle and re-sign him to a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training, but it would be a gamble after he became a reliable arm from the bullpen.
Notable pre-arb players include pitchers Randy Dobnak and Cody Stashak, infielder Luis Arraez, and outfielder Jake Cave. Cave could also be non-tendered due to the influx of outfielders that the front office has at their disposal. However, he also serves as a decent bench outfielder.
Do you agree with the salary projections? Which players do you believe are non-tender candidates? Should the Twins fire everyone? Hop on down to the comments and let us know!