At noon tomorrow, January 10th, the current arbitration-eligible players across the MLB landscape and the teams who currently control their rights will reach a deadline, one that requires them to have their final contract offers/demands in for the 2020 season. For the Cincinnati Reds, that means a final submission of contract offers for five members of their current roster, headlined by starter Trevor Bauer.
The good folks at MLB Trade Rumors have a pretty excellent model they use to create their own estimates for what the arb-eligible players will receive, a complicated formula based on service time, previous comps, and a slew of statistics - most all of which predate the modern sabermetric influence on the game. Wins, losses, ERA, dingers, batting average, and the like all roll into the current model used, but for tomorrow’s purposes it’s worth emphasizing one key point in the arbitration process:
It’s an either or decision once it reaches the arbitration judging. There’s no middle ground, no compromise, meaning the arbitration judge will simply pick the side perceived to have the best argument.
There’s a window for the two sides to negotiate, of course, and odds are most teams will figure out ways to avoid the painful, awkward arb hearings. That said, as of tomorrow both we and the Reds will find out just how large the gaps are in the asks and offers, establishing the parameters for each of the six arb players’ 2020 salaries.
MLBTR estimates a total just shy of $30 million for the Cincinnati five, with Bauer ($18.6 million) as the single biggest portion of that. Following him is a fellow pitcher rolling through the arb process for the final time in Anthony DeSclafani ($5.2 million), while arb-2 Michael Lorenzen ($4.2 million) is the next biggest likely earner. Curt Casali ($1.7 million) and Matt Bowman ($900K) round out the group, as Travis Jankowski and the Reds previously came to an agreement for 2020 at $1.05 million.
That ~$30 million figure could end up being $34 million, though. It could be just $27 million. It could end up in a completely different stratosphere because the talks surrounding these 2020 contracts could result in multi-year deals for some of these players, as has happened in previous years with the likes of Mat Latos, Devin Mesoraco, and Todd Frazier to varying degrees.
Stay tuned, as by this time tomorrow we’ll have a much more concise estimate of where the Reds money will be headed for the upcoming season.