LOS ANGELES -- Cody Bellinger was rewarded financially for his 2019 MVP season on Friday by agreeing with the Dodgers on a 2020 contract for $11.5 million, setting an MLB salary record for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility.
Bellinger broke the previous first-year arbitration-eligible record, set by the Cubs’ Kris Bryant ($10.85 million) in 2018. The Dodgers renewed Bellinger’s salary at $605,000 in '19, when he lacked the service time to qualify for arbitration.
Friday was the deadline for unsigned arbitration-eligible players and their teams to exchange figures that would be used in a February hearing to determine their salary. In a hearing, a three-member arbitration panel weighs arguments from the player and team and selects one figure or the other.
Although negotiations could continue until the February hearings, under the Dodgers’ current regime, the club has taken a “file-and-trial” strategy under president Andrew Friedman, cautioning players they will go to a hearing and not negotiate after the exchange of figures.
Pederson submitted a figure of $9.5 million, with the Dodgers at $7.75 million; Chris Taylor filed at $5.8 million, with the club at $5.25 million; Muncy is asking for $4.675 million, with the club countering at $4 million; and Baez wants $4 million, with the club at $3.5 million.
Since the inception of salary arbitration 44 years ago, the Dodgers are 14-6 in cases decided by a hearing and 6-1 since 1991. That includes the most recent wins over Joe Beimel in 2007 and Eric Gagne in '04.
The last player to win a hearing against the Dodgers was Terry Adams in 2001. The club's first arbitration case was in 1975, when Ron Cey was awarded a salary of $56,000 instead of the club's submission of $47,000.
Bellinger, who turned 24 last season, slashed .305/.406/.629 with 47 home runs, 115 RBIs, 121 runs scored and 15 stolen bases. He also was strong defensively, while splitting time among first base, right field and center field. Bellinger’s 9.0 WAR, per Baseball-Reference, led all Major Leaguers.
Seager, in his second go-round of arbitration, received a raise from his 2019 salary of $4 million. Coming off an injury-plagued '18 in which he played just 26 games, Seager got into 134 games last season and hit .272/.335/.483 with an NL-leading 44 doubles, plus 19 homers and 87 RBIs.