It’s arbitration deadline day across Major League Baseball, which sounds like one of those really important days of the offseason with lots of dramatic news. But, to be honest, it isn’t nearly as interesting as some might think.
The gist of what happens today: Players who are eligible for arbitration (more than three years’ big league service time but fewer than six, plus those pesky “Super Two” players) must either come to terms with teams on their 2019 salaries or else file competing arbitration figures, which then will be decided by a three-person panel following hearings next month. Unless the two sides work out a deal on their own in the interim, which often happens.
It’s really just about finalizing players’ salaries. Not that it isn’t important, but it’s not like any of these players are changing teams or anything like that.
The Nationals entered the offseason with seven arbitration-eligible players. Two of them (Joe Ross and Sammy Solís) have already agreed to terms with the club and are all set for 2019. Another (Tanner Roark) was traded to the Reds last month, so he’s now negotiating with them. That leaves four remaining players (Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Michael A. Taylor and Kyle Barraclough) who need to either sign deals today or file for arbitration.
Turner, Taylor and Barraclough’s cases figure to be pretty straightforward. MLBTradeRumors.com projects their respective salaries to be $5.3 million, $3.2 million and $1.9 million. It’s always possible one or more won’t be able to get a deal done before the deadline, but odds are that they’ll work it out without needing to go to a hearing.
Rendon presents a more complicated case. Not only is he entering his final season of arbitration - with a projected salary of $17.6 million - but he also has been engaged in on-and-off discussions of a long-term extension with the Nationals before he reaches free agency next winter.
What might we learn today about those discussions? Well, in a strange way, if Rendon agrees to terms on his 2019 salary, that might be an indication that the extension talks haven’t progressed well. Common sense says they’d try to work out a big deal before settling for a one-year deal.
If, however, Rendon doesn’t agree to anything today and files for arbitration, it could actually mean they’re still trying to get that long-term deal done. Again, you can continue to negotiate even after filing for arbitration, and the two sides can strike a deal any time before going to a hearing. If they don’t bother signing a one-year deal today, perhaps that means they’re still hoping they can finalize a much larger deal sometime in the next few weeks.
If there’s any drama to come out of today’s proceedings, that might well be it. Stay tuned; one way or the other, we’ll have some answers soon enough.