The Cincinnati Reds put pen to paper on a pair of contracts within the last day, the biggest of which being a one-year contract with Zack Cozart that avoids an arbitration hearing.
Reds, SS Zack Cozart agree to terms on 1-year contract for 2016 season, avoiding arbitration.
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) January 16, 2016
Cozart, 30, will reportedly make $2.925 million in his second arbitration-eligible year, though the Reds have yet to confirm that number. If true, that acts as just a slight raise over the $2.35 million he earned in his first arbitration year, and that's certainly in part due to the major knee injury that cut short his 2015 campaign. Cozart hit well last year - .258/.310/.459 - but played in just 53 games, and while he's supposed to be OK to begin the 2016 season, he's yet to fully ramp-up his workload 100%.
What's interesting about the salary number agreed to by both the Reds and Cozart is how it sets up a potential figure in what will be his final arbitration-eligible season in 2017. Arb-year salaries escalate year to year as team control dwindles, and one of the primary considerations given for salary raises is past level of compensation. In other words, the small raise Cozart got for 2016 will manifest itself again in 2017, too, and a predictable season from him may mean he's still an affordable quantity again next year. (For comparison purposes, in the extension the Reds signed with Devin Mesoraco that bought out his arbitration eligible seasons, his salary escalated from a comparable $2.525 in his first arb year to $5.025 million in his second arb season.)
Obviously Cozart's health and the performance of the bevy of middle-infielders the Reds now have will determine how long he's with the team, but even from a trade value perspective locking him in with such a low raise here means he should be affordable as a 2ish WAR player again in 2017. That's big.
As for the other move, the Reds inked veteran utility guy Jordan Pacheco to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Pacheco will be 30 in two weeks, and he's played in 346 big league games since 2011 between the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. He can catch, if need be, and has split his time not spent behind the plate between the two corner infield positions. He owns a career .689 OPS in 1098 career PAs and has been good for a punchless -3.5 bWAR in that time, but can claim a more respectable .299/.374/.425 line in 2330 career minor league PAs. It's purely a depth move, since even in what looks to be a lost year in 2016, seeing Pacheco get numerous big league appearances would be a sign that very bad things had happened.