It appears the offensive improvement Zack Cozart largely maintained in 2016 after his 2015 breakout weighed heavily into his negotiations with the Cincinnati Reds, as the two sides settled on a rather surprising 1-year, $5.325 million contract for the 2017 season on Friday.
Cozart to get $5.325 million for one year #reds— Mark Sheldon (@m_sheldon) January 13, 2017
MLB.com's Mark Sheldon broke the news right at the 1 PM ET deadline for the two sides to propose figures, meaning it's likely that this particular negotiation came right down to the wire. As The Enquirer's Zach Buchanan noted earlier in the day, the Reds have adopted a "file and trial" method in arbitration cases of late, meaning that if no deal had been struck today, there would be no further negotiations between player and team, and an actual arbitration hearing would be needed to determine the actual salary prior to the 2017 season.
That's what happened between the team and J.J. Hoover just last year, for instance.
Cozart's $5.325 million salary marks a rather sizeable raise from the $2.925 million he made in 2016, though that latter number was partially depressed given that he was coming off major knee surgery. Of course, his 2016 season ended prematurely due to a combination of soreness in that knee and a balky achilles, but the career best 16 dingers paired with 500+ PAs he posted prior to being shut down certainly warranted a more substantial increase. The final number bested the $4.7 million estimated by MLB Trade Rumors, for what its worth.
That effectively ends the question-mark stage for the Cincinnati payroll heading into 2017, since barring any additional big signings or extensions, all currently rostered players and their general salaries should be accounted for. That's because the team also avoided arbitration hearings by agreeing to deals on Friday with the other three arb-eligible players on the roster, signing Billy Hamilton to a 1-year, $2.625 million deal as well as settling with Blake Wood (1-year, $1.275 million) and Tony Cingrani (1-year, $1.825 million), as FanRag's Jon Heyman relayed earlier.