The offseason won’t start in earnest until after the World Series ends, but that feels like MONTHS AWAYS relative to how early the Cubs exited the postseason this year. Sigh.
Still, there are offseason considerations to attend to already. Specifically, how the Cubs’ payroll situation will look heading into free agency. And, to that end, MLB Trade Rumors today popped out an important consideration in that exercise: arbitration projections.
For players who have at least three years of big league service time (plus the top 22% of players (in terms of service time) with fewer than three years, but more than two years), but who haven’t yet accumulated the six years necessary for free agency, it’s time to get some arbitration money. These players have the right to submit a request for a salary, to be countered by the team for a salary, and then duke it out in an arbitration hearing over which number is better. Typically, though, arbitration-eligible players and their teams agree on a contract before all that happens in late January and February.
Here are the eligible Cubs for this offseason, their arb year, and what they’re projected by MLBTR to earn in 2019 if they’re ultimately tendered a contract by the Cubs:
- Kris Bryant – $12.4MM (2nd of 4 arbitration years)
- Kyle Hendricks – $7.6MM (2nd of 3 arbitration years)
- Javier Baez – $7.1MM (1st of 3 arbitration years)
- Addison Russell – $4.3MM (2nd of 4 arbitration years)
- Kyle Schwarber – $3.1MM (1st of 3 arbitration years)
- Mike Montgomery – $3.0MM (1st of 3 arbitration years)
- Carl Edwards Jr. – $1.4MM (1st of 4 arbitration years)
- Tommy La Stella – $1.2MM (2nd of 3 arbitration years)
There are no huge surprises, to me anyway, in those projections. Keep in mind all that goes into a guy’s arbitration figure in addition to his production: service time, comparable players, recency of production, games played, etc.
Kris Bryant was on a record pace with his arbitration dollars until injuries derailed his 2018 season, which means his projected raise is rather modest (my guess is that projection is a little too modest when all is said and done). With a healthy and Bryant-like season in 2018, he plausibly could have jumped from $10.85 million this year to $18+ million in 2019.
Heck, it was looking like he could be at $30 million by his fourth and final arbitration year, but that now is all but impossible. Still, he will have made close to $30 million in total earnings (including signing bonus and pre-arb years) by the time he’s done with 2019 … not too shabby for a guy with two more arbitration years left and who hasn’t signed any kind of extension.
Javy Baez gets a huge raise in his first arbitration year, but if he’d won the MVP, he actually would have had a good argument to be up near Kris Bryant’s $10.85 million mark from last year. No, Baez wouldn’t have the pre-2018 production that Bryant did before his first arb year, but he would have a similarly stellar pre-arb season and would also have nearly an extra year of service time over where Bryant was last year. I actually thought the projection for Baez would still be higher, to be honest.
Kyle Hendricks will get a solid bump, as you’d expect. Kyle Schwarber and Mike Montgomery are about where you’d expect, too.
Addison Russell is a unique case, not only because of his suspension for domestic violence, but also because of his terrible season at the plate, excellent season in the field, and continued injury issues. He made $3.2 million this past season, and, in the world of arbitration raises, that’s a very small projected increase for 2019. Feels appropriate.
The Cubs could, of course, non-tender Russell and not pay him anything next year (they could non-tender any arbitration-eligible player if they wanted), but I expect they will first try to trade him for a modest return. The non-tender deadline comes at the start of December.
Keep in mind, the MLBTR projections are not perfect (Bryant was under-projected by nearly $2 million last year), but they are usually in the ballpark.
The Cubs could use the arbitration process as an opportunity to engage in extension discussions with some or all of these guys (as well as pre-arb players like Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, and Albert Almora), as they have in the past, though they’ve not yet had success in locking any of this group down on a long-term deal.
Until that happens, it’s year-to-year arbitration land, and the Cubs will do the best they can to budget accordingly.