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Rox reach deals with 4; Story, Wolters pending

@harding_at_mlb
January 10, 2020

DENVER -- The Rockies announced Friday that they have avoided salary arbitration by reaching one-year contracts with four of their six remaining arbitration-eligible players: right-handed starting pitcher Jon Gray, outfielder David Dahl, left-handed starting pitcher Kyle Freeland and right-handed reliever Carlos Estévez.

DENVER -- The Rockies announced Friday that they have avoided salary arbitration by reaching one-year contracts with four of their six remaining arbitration-eligible players: right-handed starting pitcher Jon Gray, outfielder David Dahl, left-handed starting pitcher Kyle Freeland and right-handed reliever Carlos Estévez.

Friday was the deadline for players and teams to at least submit their arbitration figures. The Rockies did not announce deals with their other two arbitration-eligible regulars -- shortstop Trevor Story, and catcher Tony Wolters. According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, Story filed for $11.5 million while the club offered $10.75 million; Wolters filed at $2.475 million while the club offered $1.9 million.

The sides have until an arbitration hearing, which would be scheduled (with no official public announcement) between Feb. 3 and Feb. 21 in Phoenix, to reach a deal.

Gray up top?
The offseason began with teams asking the Rockies if they were willing to trade Gray, but the club shut those down with little discussion. On Friday, he reached a deal reported by MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman at $5.6 million.

Gray, who started on Opening Day in 2017 and '18, had enough struggles in ’18 that he was left off the roster for the National League Division Series. Now, he will enter Spring Training the likely No. 1 starter -- although righty German Márquez will push him. According to Baseball Reference, Gray’s 4.5 pitcher Wins Above Replacement ranked 10th in the NL, and Gray didn’t pitch after Aug. 16 because of a left foot stress fracture that required surgery.

Still some talking to do
Story, 27, a two-time All-Star, is a player the Rockies have identified as one they would like to lock in with a multiyear contract. This is his second year of arbitration eligibility.

Wolters, 27, also in his second year of arbitration, made a career-high 121 appearances and put up career bests in batting average (.262) and RBIs (42) batting low in the order.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort said last year that the team prefers the "file and trial" trend in the sport -- meaning no negotiations between the filing date and the hearing.

But in recent years, the Rockies negotiated past the deadline for multiyear deals with third baseman Nolan Arenado (last year), outfielder Charlie Blackmon (2016) and second baseman DJ LeMahieu (2016). LeMahieu’s two-year, $7.8 million deal, in arbitration parlance, occurred “on the courthouse steps” -- or just before his hearing was scheduled to begin.

The Rockies have had just four arbitration hearings in their history: lefty reliever Dennys Reyes (2002), righty reliever Sun-Woo Kim ('06), lefty reliever Brian Fuentes ('08) and catcher Wilin Rosario ('15). The Rockies’ only loss was to Reyes.

Bullpen economics
Estévez’s deal, reported by writer Robert Murray at $1.08 million for 2020, was a step Monfort has devised to eventually turn over the bullpen to less-expensive pitchers. This comes after a period of heavier spending on Wade Davis, Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw, who enter 2020 at the end of their three-year contracts

During the Winter Meetings, the Rockies avoided arbitration with Scott Oberg on a deal for three years at $13 million, with a fourth-year option that could bring the total to $21 million (and several performance bonus thresholds). But that is far less than the $52 million Davis received or the $27 million each that went to Shaw and McGee on their three-year deals.

Super Two-per
While most players are eligible after three years of service time, Dahl ($2.475 million for 2020, according to Heyman) and Freeland ($2.875 million for 2020, per Feinsand) became Super Two players. They were among the top 22 percent in terms of service time among those with less than three years. The cutoff was two years, 115 days.

Dahl received a significant raise, from $560,000 last year, and Freeland was bumped up from $565,000 last year.

The jumps aren't as dramatic as Arenado’s when he was a Super Two in 2016, when he went from $512,500 to $5 million. But Dahl and Freeland had performance-based arguments. Dahl made the All-Star Game in 2019. Although Freeland struggled in '19, when he dealt with injuries and an option to Triple-A Albuquerque, he finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting in '18.

A record falls
Last year, Arenado and the team settled at $26 million -- a record settlement to avoid arbitration. On Friday, the Red Sox and outfielder Mookie Betts broke that record by settling at $27 million.

Arenado and the Rockies used that record settlement as a starting point for an eventual eight-year, $260 million contract.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.