The deadline for MLB teams and arbitration-eligible players to agree to contracts and avoid the arbitration process altogether is today, and the Cincinnati Reds have been juggling negotiations with five of their currently rostered players. Each of Billy Hamilton, Scooter Gennett, Eugenio Suarez, Michael Lorenzen, and Anthony DeSclafani have accrued enough service time to become arb-eligible, which is simply baseball jargon that means ‘they’ve played long enough to start getting big raises.’
Should the two sides fail to come to an agreement today, they’ll each submit salary requests, and an arbitration judge will pick which one is deemed most suitable. It’s a notoriously awkward process, since it pits the two sides against one another despite the player/team relationship on the field, and often features the hyping of the poorer aspects of a player’s game in an effort to keep their salary figure suppressed. No player really wants the negotiations to reach that point, and in at least Billy Hamilton’s case, that won’t have to happen this year.
According to FanRag’s Robert Murray, the Reds and Hamilton agreed to a contract for 2018 that will pay him $4.6 million and dodge an arbitration hearing.
Source: #Reds, Billy Hamilton settle at $4,600,000, avoiding arbitration.— Robert Murray (@RobertMurrayFRS) January 12, 2018
The Enquirer’s Zach Buchanan later corroborated Murray’s report.
For Hamilton, that marks a number slightly lower than the $5 million MLB Trade Rumors’ model estimated he’d receive, though it’s still within range of that number to be certain. In his second season of arbitration eligibility, Hamilton is coming off another season where he flashed elite speed and defense while largely failing in most every other aspect of his game. Given that the arbitration process emphasizes many more traditional stats - read: dingers, ribbies, wins, and ERA, not UZR or DRS - it’s not exactly tailored to reward Billy’s greatest attributes. Steals, though, do work in his favor, and since he’s tallied 56-57-58-59 in each of the last four years, those numbers likely fuel much of the salary he’s making in 2018, his penultimate year under team control by the Reds.
As the deadline neared, Murray also reported that Anthony DeSclafani and the Reds had avoided arbitration by reaching a 1-year, $860,000 contract, though that’s not been confirmed elsewhere just yet. Buchanan heard right at the 1 PM ET deadline that DeSclafani did, in fact, agree to a deal - as did Michael Lorenzen - with Murray conveying that Lorenzen will make just over $1.3 million in 2018. Both represent the biggest paydays of each player’s career, though given the injury issues both have dealt with in recent seasons it’s not terribly surprising to see those salaries come in below estimates, as well.
Perhaps the biggest story of the day covers both Suarez and Gennett, as the Reds failed to reach agreements with either of those two. Given that the four players who the Reds agreed to terms with all came in at numbers below most models and that the two players who didn’t agree were coming off monster seasons, it’s easy to suspect that there were much larger gaps in the two sides’ negotiations regarding Suarez and Gennett. Suarez, in particular, likely has the most invested in this particular season’s salary, since he’s just now entering his first year of arb-eligibility; given that the salaries through the arbitration process build on previous years, the higher the number he can establish in year 1 sets a platform for larger earning power down the road.
The news of the day certainly provides a bit more clarity for the final payroll for 2018, though Gennett and Suarez stuck in limbo for the time being with large expected salary obligations that’s far from set in stone. There’s also the slight, slight chance that the Reds actually go out and sign more players, but I’ll let you set the odds on those moves making big impacts to the 2018 bottom line yourselves.