This week’s calendar lists two milestones in the arbitration process to set 2013 salaries for those players with just under three years of major league service to six years.
On Tuesday night, the Players Association will announce which players have filed for arbitration. Given that list will surely include every eligible player not yet under contract for next season, this announcement is a mere formality.
Friday’s deadline is far more meaningful. The two sides – player and club – must publicly declare their hand on their 2013 salary expectations for each player.
Assuming the players do not get deals done with their club in the interim, the group of arbitration-eligibles exchanging figures will include five Cardinals. They are reliever Edward Mujica (third year), closer Jason Motte (second year) and first-timers in third baseman David Freese plus relievers Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski.
None of the five made as much as $2 million last season, with the most experienced players, Motte and Mujica, closest. The other three made just over a half-million each in their final year of non-eligibility. In total, the five were paid just over five million in 2012.
2011 post-season hero Freese should see the biggest growth in salary – perhaps as much as a five-fold increase. A doubling of last year’s pay should be around the minimum for any of the five. In aggregate, the group could make as much as $14 million in 2013, led by Freese, Motte and Mujica.
Rather than settle on a one-year deal, the two sides could instead work on a multi-year contract as the Cardinals once did with such players as Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright during this stage of their respective careers. Such a deal could extend into the player’s free agent years, giving the team cost control while the player receives additional security.
It is unclear whether the club is currently interested in longer-term deals with any of the five. Playing more prominent roles on the team would seem to make Freese and Motte the most likely candidates, but with a strong prospect pipeline, the Cardinals may decide not to push matters right now. Of course, multi-year deals could be negotiated anytime.
The next major step in the process for all is as follows. On Friday, the player and team will exchange their one year contract amounts for 2013. That draws clear lines in the sand as to the expectations of both sides.
If they cannot settle beforehand – which most everyone does – an arbitration panel would be the next stop. As the output of a February hearing, the panel would select either the player’s or the team’s submitted amount as the player’s 2013 salary – one or the other.
Though settling on a point in the middle is not valid for the arbiters, that vicinity is where the vast majority of club-player agreements made ahead of time end up landing. Of course, the player will initially ask for more than the team wants to pay, but the threat of losing a hearing usually keeps the difference within reason and provides sufficient motivation to settle.
In fact, with players and club executives together this weekend at Winter Warm-Up, the environment exists for deals to potentially get done more easily. For example, in 2012, arbitration-eligible Kyle McClellan and the Cardinals came to terms on his contract, which was then announced at WWU.