Royals sign six of eight arbitration-eligible players
Lopez, Benintendi remain unsigned, will head to hearing
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Royals avoided arbitration with six of their eight arbitration-eligible players and agreed to 2022 salaries with all 26 of their pre-arbitration players (those who have less than three years of Major League service time) on Tuesday.
Infielder Nicky Lopez and outfielder Andrew Benintendi did not reach an agreement with the club ahead of the 12 p.m. CT deadline to exchange salary figures Tuesday. That process appears to be moving toward a hearing that will take place sometime during the season after being pushed back due to the lockout.
Teams can continue to negotiate deals until the hearing; just because they exchange numbers doesn’t mean there isn’t interest in a one-year or multiyear deal. Both Lopez and Benintendi expressed a willingness to listen to extension offers.
“It’s definitely in the back of my mind,” said Benintendi on Wednesday. “It’d be irresponsible not to listen, but then again, you can reach free agency and test out that. We’ll see how the year plays out, but it would be irresponsible for me to not listen if they offered something. But just taking it day by day, controlling what I can control is how I’m taking it at this point.”
“Definitely a possibility,” Lopez added. “I want to be here my whole career. I want to be a Royal. I love this organization. They took a chance on me in 2016 and I’ve been with them ever since, and it would mean a lot to me to spend my whole time here. If that comes up, that’d be great. But right now, I’m here to focus on baseball and help the team win.”
If no settlement can be reached by the hearing date, the case is brought before a panel of arbitrators. After hearing arguments from both sides, the panel selects the salary figure of either the player or the club (but not a new number in between) as the player's salary for the upcoming season.
Per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, Benintendi filed at $8.5 million, while the Royals countered at $7.3 million, a sizable gap for the outfielder in his final year of arbitration before hitting free agency. Benintendi, 27, was paid $6.6 million in 2021 and was projected to make $8.95 million, according to Cot’s Contracts. He posted a .766 OPS last season and won a Gold Glove in his first year playing at Kauffman Stadium after the Royals acquired him from the Red Sox last offseason.
“I thought my year last year was worth more than the minimal raise they offered,” Benintendi explained. “Again, it is what it is. You can’t control a lot of it. All I can do is go out there and play well, and everything else will take care of itself.”
Lopez’s gap was closer in the 27-year-old’s first year of arbitration as a Super Two player: He filed at $2.95 million, while the Royals countered $400,000 below at $2.55 million. Lopez is coming off a breakout season in 2021, when he became the first regular shortstop in Royals history to hit at least .300. He played outstanding defense as Kansas City’s everyday shortstop and got on base at a .365 clip, posting a .743 OPS while hitting just two home runs.
“Obviously, I think the most about this organization,” Lopez said. “I want to be a Royal for a really long time. Hopefully we can come to an agreement. It’s no representation of what I think of the organization. Hopefully we come to something, but I hope they know how much I want to be a Royal for my whole career.”
The Royals have typically tried to avoid arbitration hearings in the past, which tend to only create harsh feelings between the player and the club. Since president of baseball operations Dayton Moore took over Kansas City's front office in May 2006, the club has gone to an arbitration hearing only once. That was in 2018, when reliever Brandon Maurer lost the hearing and was awarded the Royals’ offer of $2.95 million.
Here are the details for the Royals who did avoid arbitration Tuesday, per a source. The club confirmed the agreements but did not announce financial terms.
Infielder Adalberto Mondesi: $3 million
Starting pitcher Brad Keller: $4.825 million
Relief pitcher Scott Barlow: $2.4 million
Relief pitcher Amir Garrett: $2.025 million
First baseman/outfielder Ryan O’Hearn: $1.3 million
Catcher Cam Gallagher: $885,000
The 26 pre-arb players the Royals agreed to terms with include 19 pitchers and seven position players:
Pitchers (19): Ronald Bolaños, Jonathan Bowlan, Jake Brentz, Kris Bubic, Dylan Coleman, Jonathan Heasley, Carlos Hernández, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Joel Payamps, Brady Singer, Collin Snider, Gabe Speier, Josh Staumont, Domingo Tapia, Daniel Tillo, Nate Webb, Angel Zerpa and Tyler Zuber
Outfielders (2): Edward Olivares and Kyle Isbel
Infielders (3): Maikel Garcia, Nick Pratto and Emmanuel Rivera
Catchers (2): MJ Melendez and Sebastian Rivero