7 takeaways from a busy arb deadline day

While most players settle with clubs, 13 face potential hearings

January 16th, 2021

Friday was the most eventful day of the offseason thus far, bringing about a flurry of activity as arbitration-eligible players and their teams worked to reach deals. With the unpleasant prospect of going to a hearing at stake, the majority of players agreed to contracts for 2021, leaving only 13 eligible players unsigned.

If you missed any of the action, we’ve got you covered with the top storylines and takeaways from this year’s arbitration deadline.

Up in the air
There were 13 players who were unable to come to terms with their club while exchanging salary figures Friday afternoon. That’s down from 22 a year ago, a possible result of the uncertainty surrounding not only the 2021 arbitration process, but the '21 season in general.

Carlos Correa stands out as the most notable player to exchange numbers; the shortstop filed for $12.5 million, while the Astros countered at $9.75 million. The $2.75 million spread between the two sides marks the largest of the 13 exchanges between unsigned players and their teams.

The other 12 players each have a spread of less than $1 million between their requests and the salary filed by the club.

Here’s the entire list:

($2M), Dodgers ($1.5M)
($4.15M), Dodgers ($3.3M)
($2.45M), Rays ($1.85M)
($12.5M), Astros ($9.75M)
J.D. Davis ($2.475M), Mets ($2.1M)
($3.9M), Cardinals ($3M)
Ian Happ ($4.1M), Cubs ($3.25M)
($3.3M), Angels ($2.5M)
($2.475M), Orioles ($2.1M)
($3.9M), Giants ($3.25M)
($2.8M), Braves ($2.1M)
($6.7M), Braves ($6M)
($3.1M), Rays ($2.3M)

The Dodgers, Rays and Braves are the only teams with two unresolved cases, while 20 teams have no unsigned arbitration-eligible players.

The Top 10, revisited
A year ago, four settlements qualified for the list of the 10 biggest one-year contracts ever given to arbitration-eligible players. Here was that list heading into this year:

Mookie Betts: $27M (2020)
Nolan Arenado: $26M (2019)
Josh Donaldson: $23M (2018)
Bryce Harper: $21.625M (2018)
Mookie Betts: $20M (2019)
David Price: $19.75M (2015)
Anthony Rendon: $18.8M (2019)
Kris Bryant: $18.6M (2020)
Francisco Lindor: $17.5M (2020)
Trevor Bauer: $17.5M (2020)

The list looks a little different following Friday’s deals, as Lindor and Bryant surged higher on the list with their 2021 agreements:

Mookie Betts: $27M (2020)
Nolan Arenado: $26M (2019)
Josh Donaldson: $23M (2018)
Francisco Lindor: $22.3M (2021)
Bryce Harper: $21.625M (2018)
Mookie Betts: $20M (2019)
David Price: $19.75M (2015)
Kris Bryant: $19.5M (2021)
Anthony Rendon: $18.8M (2019)
Kris Bryant: $18.6M (2020)

The two deals bumped last year’s contracts for Lindor and Bauer -- $17.5 million each -- off the list.

Lindor’s deal is not only the fourth biggest of its kind, but the second largest for a third-year arbitration-eligible player. Both Arenado and Donaldson landed their big deals in their fourth year of arbitration, while Betts was in his third.

Not falling short
We all know about next winter’s insane class of free-agent shortstops, but how did that group fare in their final year of arbitration eligibility?

Lindor landed the biggest deal of the bunch, agreeing to a $22.3 million contract with the Mets. As previously noted, that’s the fourth biggest one-year deal for an arbitration-eligible player in history, so he appears to have done quite well.

Corey Seager was another big winner Friday, earning a raise of more than $6 million after agreeing to a $13.75 million deal with the Dodgers. Javier Báez agreed to an $11.65 million deal with the Cubs after earning $10 million last year.

The one arbitration-eligible member of next year’s shortstop class who didn’t come to terms Friday was Correa.

Nationals shortstop Trea Turner, who is not eligible for free agency until the end of the 2022 season, agreed to a $13 million deal for '21, a raise of more than $5.5 million.

Brewing up a deal
Left-hander Josh Hader and the Brewers settled on a $6.675 million contract for 2021, avoiding a second straight arbitration hearing.

A year ago, Milwaukee beat Hader in a hearing, paying him $4.1 million rather than the $6.4 million figure filed by the pitcher. Another arbitration hearing might have caused some hard feelings on Hader’s part, as some players can take these cases quite personally.

Despite winning back-to-back National League Reliever of the Year Awards in 2018 and '19, Hader lost his case last year, in part because the Brewers argued that he shouldn’t be paid as a top closer given that he hadn’t held that traditional role for the majority of his first three years in the Majors. That was no longer an issue in 2020, as Hader led the NL with 13 saves.

City that never sleeps
The Yankees had a busy day on Friday. It began with their agreement to bring back DJ LeMahieu on a six-year, $90 million deal (which is expected to be finalized in the coming days). Then, New York signed all eight of its remaining arbitration-eligible players:

Aaron Judge ($10.175M)
Gary Sánchez ($6.35M)
Luke Voit ($4.7M)
Gio Urshela ($4.65M)
Gleyber Torres ($4M)
Chad Green ($2.15M)
Jordan Montgomery ($2.13M)
Clint Frazier ($2.1M)

As the final arbitration settlement numbers were rolling in, news broke that the Yankees had reached a one-year, $11 million agreement to sign two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. The deal, which won’t become official until Kluber passes a physical, capped an eventful day for the Yanks, whose offseason had been relatively quiet to that point.

L.A. story
The Dodgers reached agreements with Cody Bellinger ($16.1M), Seager ($13.75M), Julio Urías ($3.6M) and Dylan Floro ($975,000) to avoid arbitration, but they were unable to come to terms with either Buehler or Barnes, exchanging salary figures with both players.

What does this mean going forward? The Dodgers could go to a hearing with both players, or they could hammer out deals -- likely of the multi-year variety -- with the players prior to the hearing date.

A year ago, the Dodgers got to this point with four players, exchanging figures with Pedro Báez, Max Muncy, Joc Pederson and Chris Taylor. Both Muncy and Taylor worked out multi-year deals to avert a hearing, while Pederson lost his hearing and Baez won his -- the first two hearings for the Dodgers since 2007.

Debut deals
A number of prominent players agreed to deals in their first year of arbitration, with Nationals outfielder Juan Soto and his $8.5 million salary leading the way.

Other notable first-time-eligible position players included A's third baseman Matt Chapman ($6.49M), Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins ($4.8M), Voit ($4.7M), Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers ($4.575M), Blue Jays outfielder Teoscar Hernández ($4.325M) and Torres ($4M).

Of the pitchers eligible for the first time, none eclipsed the previous record for a non-Cy Young winner established by Price and Jered Weaver ($4.365 million), though Reds right-hander Luis Castillo ($4.2M) and White Sox righty Lucas Giolito ($4.15M) each topped the $4 million mark.