MILWAUKEE -- Will Friday be a payday for the Brewers' three remaining arbitration-eligible players?
At noon CT, Major League teams and their arbitration-eligible players who remain unsigned will formally exchange one-year contract proposals, setting up the possibility of a hearing -- between Jan. 30 and Feb. 17 -- to determine those players' salaries for 2017. For the Brewers, starting pitchers Chase Anderson and Wily Peralta and reliever Carlos Torres fall in that category.
The Brewers began the offseason with eight arbitration-eligible players, but second baseman Scooter Gennett and outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis fell off the list when they signed one-year deals in early December, the same day the Brewers opted not to enter the process with first baseman Chris Carter, non-tendering him instead. They then traded reliever Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox and catcher Martin Maldonado to the Angels.
Last year, the Brewers also had three unsigned players on the morning of the exchange date (Jean Segura, Will Smith and Peralta), and all three signed before the deadline. The team has not gone to a hearing since 2012, when they did so with reliever Jose Veras.
According to salary projections from MLBTradeRumors.com, the Brewers' current trio could account for about $10 million -- Peralta a projected $4.4 million, Anderson a projected $3.1 million and Torres a projected $2 million.
For the second straight year, the importance of Friday's exchange deadline remains somewhat murky. General manager David Stearns has declined to disclose publicly whether the Brewers still employ the "file and trial" strategy used during arbitration cycles from 2012-15 under GM Doug Melvin.
To understand what that means, an arbitration primer is helpful.
Arbitration-eligible players are generally those with at least three years of Major League service, but less than the six needed to be a free agent. A select group of players with between two and three years of service also qualify for arbitration as "Super Twos" -- Anderson is one this year.
These players are still under club control, but unlike players with zero-to-three years of service, whose salaries are controlled by their teams, arbitration-eligibles are paid relative to players of similar performance and service time as governed by MLB's Basic Agreement. If they find common ground, the player signs a contract and avoids the rest of the process. But if the sides cannot agree by the exchange date, which falls on a Friday every year in mid-January, each party submits a one-year contract proposal it is willing to defend at a hearing.
The two sides can negotiate up until the hearing, but if a case does go to a hearing, each side defends its salary proposal before a three-member panel of judges. Twenty-four hours later, the judges choose one of the proposals.
Only twice since 1998 have the Brewers been to a hearing with a player. Jon Hart took his case to a panel of judges in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2010, and won a $4.8 million salary. In 2012, the Brewers beat Veras in a hearing, but he still earned $2 million.
Overall, the Brewers have gone to the hearing room five times.