Friday marked another key date on the Major League Baseball offseason calendar. It’s the final day in which players and teams can exchange figures in their ongoing arbitration negotiations.
It’s not a hard deadline for an agreement to be reached, but for a lot of players it means the first truly big payday of their baseball careers. Among those players this year are sluggers Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees.
The respective 2017 Rookie of the Year winners were arbitration eligible for the first time this winter, and both ended up receiving a raise of over 1000% from their 2019 salaries.
In Bellinger’s case, he agreed to a $11.5 million salary, which breaks the record for a first-time eligible player.
Bellinger earned $585,000 and $605,000 the last two seasons.
According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsaid, Judge agreed to a one-year, $8.5 million contract, which is a $7.8 million increase from his $684,300 salary in 2019.
Judge, 27, is entering his fourth full season with the Yankees. To date, he’s earned a total of $1.85 million for his career, which already boasts 110 homers and 246 RBI.
Both players have definitely earned their raises. Most would also agree they deserve vastly more than the agreed-to salaries for 2020, but the traditional arbitration pay scale makes it impossible for first-time eligible players to reach their earning potential right away.
Bellinger and Judge will get there eventually, but it will have to come through a long-term deal or steady increases over their final two years in arbitration.
Other notable agreements
• As we mentioned earlier on Friday, former AL MVP Mookie Betts received an arbitration record $27 million from the Boston Red Sox.
Betts is in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility, which highlights the path both Bellinger and Judge will be on if they don't sign long-term deals. Betts has also been mentioned in multiple trade rumors this offseason, which adds a layer of intrigue to his salary and situation.
• Another superstar whose name has been mentioned frequently in trade rumors is Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor. On Friday, he agreed to a $17.55 million salary for 2020. According to MLB.com's Mandy Bell, that's the second-highest salary for a second-time arbitration player.
The Indians insist that they don't expect to trade Lindor this winter, but with his salary increasing by $6.7 million this season and sure to exceed $20 million next season, he might be getting too pricey.
Which big names haven't agreed to terms
While several big names have already avoided arbitration, there are several others who haven't.
ESPN's Jeff Passan has highlighted that impressive list.
The aforementioned players can still reach an agreement with their respective teams. If they can't agree to terms, their case will be settled in an arbitration hearing to be held in February.
As these tweets from Passan and MLB Network's Jon Heyman point out, in some cases the separation is minimal. In others, reaching an agreement before a hearing could be difficult.
Each case is different and several will be worth monitoring in the weeks ahead.
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