After a underwhelming regular season that resulted in the team missing the playoffs again, the Toronto Blue Jays will face many difficult decisions this offseason. One of the first choices the team will face will be in regards to arbitration-eligible players.
To recap what dictates if a player is eligible for arbitration, I’ll fall back to MLB.com for their official rules:
A player with three or more years of service, but less than six years, may file for salary arbitration. In addition, a player can be classified as a “Super Two” and be eligible for arbitration with less than three years of service. A player with at least two but less than three years of Major League service shall be eligible for salary arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and he ranks in the top 22 percent (increased from 17 percent in previous agreements) in total service in the class of Players who have at least two but less than three years of Major League service, however accumulated, but with at least 86 days of service accumulated during the immediately preceding season.
Under those guidelines, the Blue Jays will have four such players that are due to be eligible for the arbitration process (h/t MLBtr).
Of those four players, all but Rasmus is first-year arbitration eligible, with Rasmus himself in his final year of arbitration before he hits the open market. That said, the market for each will be considerably different.
Colby Rasmus made $4.675 million in 2013 and enjoyed the second best year of his career. After hitting .276 with 22 home runs, 66 RBI, a .840 OPS, and posting a career-high bWAR, Rasmus is set to see a substantial pay raise. The gentlemen at MLB Trade Rumors, using a fairly accurate model, believe Rasmus could see a raise to $6.5 million. However, I imagine that the 27-year-old center fielder will likely ask for upwards of $8 million, as a case could be made that he is much more valuable than either Coco Crisp (4.3 bWAR) and the forever-injured Franklin Gutierrez (0.4 bWAR) who check in at $7 million and $7.3 million respectively.
The case for Brett Cecil is an interesting one. Cecil made a seamless transition to the bullpen in 2013 and was rewarded for a 5-1 record, a 2.82 ERA, and a career-high 10.4 K/9 ratio with his first All-Star selection. He’ll be hoping to cash in during arbitration as well, hoping to gain a raise from his $510,000 base salary last season. MLBtr has him pegged at about $900k, which seems to be about right, given the volatile nature of the relief industry in the game and the fact there really isn’t a benchmark for comparison in the left-handed relief market.
Esmil Rogers is a bit of a different case than Cecil. After making $509,000 this past season, Rogers spent time in both the bullpen and the rotation. In most cases, he’d be eligible for less than Cecil as Rogers’ marks of 5-9 with a 4.77 ERA and a 6.3 K/9 are obviously inferior to Cecil. However, what sets him apart from Brett are the 20 starts he made in 2013, and the fact that he has declared his desire to compete for a starting role in 2014. MLBtr has him pegged for an increase to about $1 million in 2014, and that seems about right. When I looked back for an example, the best I could come up with was Carlos Villanueva, who nearly doubled his existing salary between 2011 and 2012, after serving in a similar role for the Blue Jays as a swing-man.
The final arbitration case will likely be the most interesting to follow this winter. J.P. Arencibia “enjoyed” one of the worst seasons in the history of the game (no need to go into the numbers again), regrettably choosing his first season of arbitration-eligibility to do so. He made $505,600 in 2013 and MLBtr has him pegged for a significant raise to about $2.8 million, which normally would seem adequate for a player at such a demanding position. That said, there is history on Arencibia’s side. After the 2009 season, Jeff Mathis won an arbitration case that paid him $1.3 million (Angels offered $700,000) after a year where he hit .211 with a .497 OPS and a 0.9 bWAR. That may bode well for the Blue Jays, who despite his struggles, will likely still tender Arencibia a contract this winter in hopes that there is still come value there, either in the player or on the trade market.
So loyal readers, how do you think arbitration will play out for our quartet here? Who do you think will be the big winner or the big loser in the process?