HOUSTON -- The arbitration process will be quite a bit trickier this year for teams set to judge a player’s salary based on a 60-game regular season when nothing was normal. Will the truncated 2020 season be extrapolated to its 162-game equivalent, or will the teams and players acknowledge the
HOUSTON -- The arbitration process will be quite a bit trickier this year for teams set to judge a player’s salary based on a 60-game regular season when nothing was normal. Will the truncated 2020 season be extrapolated to its 162-game equivalent, or will the teams and players acknowledge the myriad unknowns that marked last year as they try to reach fair deals?
The Astros have until noon CT on Friday to exchange 2021 salary figures with their three arbitration-eligible players: shortstop Carlos Correa, right-handed starter Lance McCullers Jr. and utility player Aledmys Díaz. Houston will try to strike deals with all three players prior to the deadline. If not, because the Astros like most teams these days opt not to continue negotiating if a deal isn't reached by the deadline to exchange salary figures, the case would be brought before a panel of arbitrators to determine the player's salary for the '21 season.
Here’s a closer look at the Astros’ three arbitration-eligible players:
Carlos Correa, SS
Arbitration eligibility: Third year
MLB Trade Rumors projections: $8 million-$10.2 million
Correa hits his final year of arbitration at only 26 years old and remains one of the best shortstops in baseball, though he’s no longer considered an up-and-coming star. Correa’s career has been a bit of an enigma, and he has been hampered by injuries. He’s coming off a quirky 2020, in which he struggled offensively in the regular season and then caught fire in the playoffs. He hit .264/.326/.383 with five homers and 25 RBIs in 58 lackluster games, before hitting .362/.455/.766 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 13 games in an electric postseason. He was a Gold Glove Award finalist at shortstop after making one error in 212 chances in the regular season and leading the American League with eight Defensive Runs Saved.
Aledmys Díaz, IF/OF
Arbitration eligibility: Second year
MLB Trade Rumors projections: $2.8 million-$3.1 million
Díaz, 30, has spent as much time on the injured list as he has on the field in his two years with the Astros, missing 86 games (56 in 2019 and 30 last year) with injuries while appearing in 86 regular-season games. When healthy, he has been a solid hand with his ability to play first base, second base, third base and left field. Last year, he hit .241 with three homers and six RBIs in only 58 at-bats after missing half of the season with a groin injury. In the playoffs, he hit .353, including a two-run homer in Game 3 of the AL Division Series against the A’s in his first career postseason start.
Lance McCullers Jr., RHP
Arbitration eligibility: Third year
MLB Trade Rumors projections: $4.7 million-$7 million
McCullers, 27, rebounded nicely after missing the 2019 season following Tommy John surgery. He went 3-3 with a 3.93 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 11 starts, posting the second-highest ground-ball rate (61.1 percent) and sixth-best ground ball-to-fly ball ratio (3.26) in MLB. His season was stained by two rough starts -- allowing eight runs in 3 2/3 innings on Aug. 5 in Arizona and three runs without recording an out on Sept. 4 in Anaheim, where he left with a neck nerve irritation. Those two starts accounted for 11 of the 24 earned runs he gave up, and he posted a 2.28 ERA in his other nine starts. McCullers was 2-2 with a 2.18 ERA with a .094 WHIP is his final eight starts before going 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings in three postseason starts.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.