MLB teams had until 5 p.m. PT on Wednesday to inform arbitration-eligible players if they will remain on the 40-man roster or become free agents. Earlier this offseason, the Mariners outrighted two players -- relievers Matt Magill and Carl Edwards Jr. -- who also would have been arbitration eligible. Edwards is now a free agent, but Magill agreed to remain in the organization on a Minor League deal while recovering from arthroscopic debridement surgery on his right shoulder.
Haniger, Murphy and Crawford all figure prominently in the Mariners’ plans for the upcoming season. Crawford won his first American League Gold Glove Award at shortstop this year, while Haniger and Murphy both missed the 2020 season due to injuries but are expected to be full go by Spring Training.
Murphy had a breakout season in 2019 in his first year with the Mariners, but he spent last season on the injured list with a broken bone in his left foot. He’s expected to split duties with newly acquired catcher Luis Torrens next season.
Haniger hasn’t played since June 6, 2019, when he ruptured a testicle on a foul ball. He underwent two surgeries last winter and sat out all of the 2020 campaign while recovering from a herniated disk, but he has resumed normal offseason baseball workouts and is penciled in as the starting right fielder if all goes well.
Haniger, a 2018 AL All-Star, agreed to a $3 million contract last year in his first season of arbitration eligibility, though players wound up being paid only a prorated portion of the 60-game schedule due to the pandemic shutdown.
Murphy and Crawford are both entering their first year of arbitration eligibility, which is the system used to determine salaries for players with 3-6 years of MLB service time, as well as some Super Two exceptions, like Crawford. After the sixth year of service time, players become free agents. As a Super Two qualifier, Crawford enters the arbitration process -- and the opportunity to earn more than the MLB minimum -- a year earlier, and he still has three additional seasons of arbitration eligibility before becoming a free agent after 2024.
Teams sometimes choose to not tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players, preferring to not get locked into the salary structure. Once a player is tendered a contract, the two sides have about two months to agree on a salary, otherwise the case goes to a binding arbitration hearing in February. Non-tendered players immediately become free agents and can sign with any team for any amount.