Nats face arbitration deadline with three key players

There has been precious little news this winter, but there was some news yesterday with Edwin Jackson’s return on a minor league deal. And there will be news today. Not huge news, but at this point, who are we to complain?

Today marks the deadline for all major league clubs and all arbitration-eligible players to either agree to terms on their 2018 contracts or else formally file competing offers to league headquarters, which then will set arbitration hearing dates to settle their cases.

What does any of that mean? Well, the first thing to know is that all we’re talking about here are players’ salaries for the 2018 season. That’s it. Any player subject to this process is already under a team’s control for at least one more season. This isn’t about free agency. And this isn’t about whether a club is deciding to retain a player for the upcoming season or not.

This applies to all major leaguers who have amassed between three and six years of service time. (It also applies to the top 22 percent of players with at least two years of service time, the so-called “Super 2” players who qualify a year early for arbitration.)

In the case of the Nationals, seven players on the current 40-man roster fall into this category: Bryce Harper (5 years, 159 days of service time), Sean Doolittle (5 years, 122 days), Matt Adams (5 years, 33 days), Adam Eaton (5 years, 30 days), Anthony Rendon (4 years, 130 days), Tanner Roark (4 years, 55 days) and Michael A. Taylor (3 years, 10 days).

Four of those players, however, have nothing to be concerned with today. Those four (Harper, Doolittle, Adams and Eaton) already have signed 2018 contracts, with their salaries already established. Harper agreed to his $21.625 million salary (a record for an arbitration-eligible player) last May. Doolittle was acquired in July having already signed a five-year, $10.5 million deal with the Athletics in 2014. Likewise for Eaton, who agreed to a five-year, $23.5 million deal with the White Sox in 2015. Adams, of course, just signed a one-year, $4 million deal last month after he was non-tendered by the Braves.

So the three players who face today’s deadline are Rendon, Roark and Taylor.

sidebar-Rendon-Blue-.jpgRendon is entering the third of his four years of arbitration eligibility, having initially qualified as a Super 2 player in 2016. He made $5.8 million last season, and after putting up big numbers that resulted in a sixth-place finish for National League MVP he’s well-positioned to earn a nice raise. MLBTradeRumors.com, which has a solid track record for predicting these things, has Rendon pegged for an $11.5 million salary in 2018.

Roark is entering the second of his three years of arbitration eligibility. The right-hander made $4.315 million last season, and though he did not have a particularly good season by his standards, the arbitration process still positions him to receive a raise. MLBTradeRumors’ projection: $7.5 million.

Taylor, meanwhile, reaches arbitration eligibility for the first time in his career. And he picked a good time to do it, on the heels of a breakthrough 2017 season in which he established himself as the Nationals’ starting center fielder and a Gold Glove Award finalist. After making $557,900 last year, Taylor stands to make something in the neighborhood of $2.3 million this year, according to MLBTradeRumors.

If any of these three players and the Nationals can’t agree to terms on their own by today, they’ll be required to file competing offers to Major League Baseball headquarters. Arbitration hearings before a three-person panel will then be scheduled, with the hearings set to take place from Jan. 29-Feb. 17 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Even if they submit arbitration figures later today, teams and players can still negotiate on their own and reach a deal before ever going to a hearing. The Nationals haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2015 with Jerry Blevins. Their last hearing prior to that was with John Lannan in 2012.

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