The sometimes-awkward, sometimes-uncomfortable world of asking your boss for a raise is, in the baseball world, quite public. Earlier this week, 156 eligible players filed for salary arbitration, and the deadline for those players and their teams to exchange salaries is Friday.Sometimes this process leads to contentiousness, sometimes it leads
The sometimes-awkward, sometimes-uncomfortable world of asking your boss for a raise is, in the baseball world, quite public. Earlier this week, 156 eligible players filed for salary arbitration, and the deadline for those players and their teams to exchange salaries is Friday.
Sometimes this process leads to contentiousness, sometimes it leads to compromise. And as we saw with the five-year, $50 million deal between the Marlins and Dee Gordon, sometimes it leads not just to an agreement for the year at hand but also for the foreseeable future.
So let's take a look at the list of arb-eligibles and come up with guys who qualify as extension candidates. Keep in mind that signing a player to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration doesn't preclude a team from tearing that contract up and replacing it with an extension sometime between now and Opening Day.
We'll list these guys in rough order of likelihood, starting with most likely.
J.D. Martinez, Tigers
The Tigers might sign a corner outfielder to a long-term deal this month, but that doesn't mean it's going to be one of the remaining free agents.
Martinez is two years away from free agency and, at 28, has established himself as one of the more productive power hitters in the game -- just two years after the Astros unceremoniously cut him in camp. He made $3 million last year and is due for a huge raise, and the Tigers have all the incentive in the world to try to extend him now, lest his price tag for those free-agent years winds up getting out of reach for a club with many big commitments on the books.
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Nolan Arenado, Rockies
Arenado dropped Scott Boras as his agent this offseason and latched on with the Wasserman Media Group. That could bode well for the Rox locking up their 24-year-old third baseman, who, as a result of the Troy Tulowitzki trade and a potential Carlos Gonzalez trade, is quickly becoming the face of the franchise. He had a dynamic 2015 in the field and at the plate, and his road splits insist he's no Coors concoction.
This is Arenado's first of four rounds of arbitration, because he's a Super Two. Some estimates have him making $6 million, which means he could be looking at some monster salaries down the road. The Rockies, then, have some incentive to try to lock Arenado up now.
A.J. Pollock and/or Shelby Miller, D-backs
The D-backs made it quite clear to inquiring clubs this offseason that they are simply not moving Pollock. In fact, that's how the Miller discussions with the Braves wound up pivoting to Dansby Swanson and Co. So if the D-backs are so intent on retaining Pollock, who has been one of the game's most productive center fielders the past two seasons, it stands to reason that they'd be interested in retaining him for the long haul.
At the very least, you figure Arizona would have incentive to try to nail down both the current and future arbitration prices for Pollock. As it stands, he'll be 31 when he hits the open market, and, at this current trajectory, he'd be in line for an enormous payday at that point. But it's not out of the realm of possibility that the D-backs could buy out one or two of Pollock's free-agent years to give him -- and themselves -- cost certainty moving forward.
You wonder, too, if the D-backs might make an effort to extend Miller, especially given the enormous price they paid for him in the Braves trade.
Lorenzo Cain, Royals
Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are all slated to be free agents after 2017, which is also when the more bloated half of Alex Gordon's newly inked, backloaded deal kicks in. So the defending World Series champs have some hard decisions in their not-too-distant future. But knowing what we know about players represented by Boras (this applies to Hosmer and Moose) and their tendency to test the open market, it seems Cain is a far more realistic extension target.
Cain, who finished third in the American League MVP Award voting and went to his first All-Star Game in 2015, is turning 30 in April, so he's no spring chicken. But he is famously young in baseball years, because of his late embrace of the sport, so he's likely got several high-caliber seasons left.
Dallas Keuchel, Astros
It can be difficult to pin down the true contractual value of a late bloomer coming off a major award, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. Last year, the Indians and then-reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber came to terms on a five-year, $38.5 million agreement (along with two club options worth a minimum total of $27.5 million) a full year in advance of Kluber's first eligibility for arbitration.
As a first-time arb-eligible, Keuchel is a year ahead of that particular schedule, so it would likely take a larger annual commitment. But the Astros and Keuchel did have some discussion toward the end of the season about an extension -- likely covering Keuchel's three arbitration years and perhaps one or two years of free agency -- and talks could continue in this latter stage of the offseason.
Less realistic, it seems, is an extension for National League Cy Young Award winner (and Boras client) Jake Arrieta.
Tyson Ross, Padres
We've heard his name quite a bit in trade talks this offseason, but the Padres' asking price has been extremely high -- and understandably so, given the costs of impact pitching in the free-agent market.
The Padres obviously value Ross, who will pitch the 2016 season at age 29 and could earn around $10 million in his second round of arbitration, and they view him as a central figure in their current and future rotation plans. We'll see if they pay him accordingly.
Garrett Richards, Angels
This is a first-time arb-eligible arm coming off a 2015 season in which he made a successful return from an awful knee injury toward the end of '14. Though he did deliver 207 1/3 innings last year, Richards wasn't as dominant as he had been in a 168 2/3-inning sample the previous year.
In a somewhat twisted sense, that might make this an ideal time for the Halos -- who have to be mindful of the exploding price of free-agent arms -- to try to lock Richards up. If the 27-year-old can get back to the strikeouts-, walks- and hits-per-nine marks of '14, he can be an elite arm.
Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
There has been public discussion of an extension for pending free agents Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but don't forget about the reigning AL MVP Award winner. After winning that award, Donaldson, who made $4.3 million in '15, could be due for a record raise for a second-time arb-eligible player. The current such record is the $7.05 million raise Chris Davis received between 2013 and '14.
The Blue Jays beat Donaldson in an arbitration hearing last winter. To avoid that contentiousness on an annual basis, it might make sense to try to hammer out a deal that covers his three remaining arbitration years before free agency. But Donaldson has so much leverage right now that it's hard to say how productive such talks would be.
Manny Machado, Orioles
Machado, who will be just 26 years old when he's eligible to hit the open market, could be a central figure in a historic free-agent class at the end of 2018 -- unless the O's lock him up first.
Unfortunately, the Orioles have much more pressing business at the moment, so this is on the back, back burner. But man, you've got to figure some of that $150 million the O's have offered to Davis would be better spent on a long-term deal with their 23-year-old third baseman, don't you?
I would have a Machado extension rated as more likely if Baltimore didn't have so many other issues at hand.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.