Toronto Blue Jay arbitration results: Why the extra dough?

The Blue Jays settled with Ken Giles and Matt Shoemaker before the arbitration deadline, paying both more than they were projected to receive. Why?

Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays won’t have to worry about arbitration this year, as they’ve avoided the process with all three of their potential candidates.

After agreeing to a one-year, 2.05 million dollar contract with Brandon Drury earlier in the week, the Jays managed to get deals done with both Ken Giles and Matt Shoemaker ahead of Friday’s 1pm EST deadline. Both contracts are for one year as well, with Giles receiving 9.6 million, and Shoemaker getting 4.2.

One of the interesting parts about Friday’s agreements is that both Giles and Shoemaker received bigger contracts than they were projected to get. MLBtraderumors.com had Giles slated for approximately 8.4 million in 2020, and Shoemaker getting 3.8 million. The projections made sense, as Shoemaker made 3.5 million last year, and missed most of the season recovering from a torn ACL in his knee. As for Giles, he made 6.3 million last season, and even though he battled some injury issues of his own, was effective while on the field and will receive an extra 2.9 million in 2020.

Let me start by saying I have zero issue with either contract that was signed on Friday, and I’m pleased to see both men returning to the Blue Jays (at least for now). I am a little surprised that both received more money than they were projected though, and I can’t help but wonder why.

One of the first clues might actually show itself because of the deal that Drury signed. After making 1.3 million in 2019, he was projected to receive a raise up to 2.5 million. However, after a -0.6 bWAR season from the utility man, he didn’t exactly have a lot of leverage, and the Blue Jays probably aren’t terribly sold on how he fits long-term. As a result, there was no pressure to pay him, and he received less than the projection.

That’s a pretty simple way to break it down, and I have no idea if there is any truth to it, but it makes sense if you’re comparing his situation to Giles and Shoemaker’s. By comparison, my guess is that there is/was at least some interest in a multi-year deal with the two pitchers, and making the process easier could bode well for them in future negotiations.

Giles is one of the top 10 highest paid closers in baseball (he was 10th last season), and his performance warrants that compensation as long as he’s healthy. That questionable health will be the difference between him pushing for the top of the market at the end of the season (Mark Melancon makes 19 million, Kenley Jansen makes 18), or having to settle for something closer to where he is now. To be fair, it’s not exactly an easy task to evaluate his long-term value at the moment, and I can understand why a one-year deal makes sense here, even if it could be re-visited down the line.

As for Shoemaker, his new contract of 4.2 million could turn into one of the better bargains in baseball, however, it’s a big “if” and it all comes back to health. It’s been the theme of Shoemaker’s career, as he’s been very effective while on a MLB mound, he just hasn’t been able to avoid the Injured List. He showed us what he can do by earning 1.2 bWAR in just five starts last season, and hopefully he’ll be able to make 25-30 starts this season and hit free agency without as many question marks. Giving him a small reward for his limited performance (and also his bad luck) won’t hurt the way he feels about the organization going forward.

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If the Blue Jays are interested in either pitcher beyond the 2020 season, having a smooth contract process that avoided arbitration won’t hurt their chances. They have plenty of payroll room, especially in a market of Toronto’s size, and it’s certainly a positive that both parties could avoid arbitration over a difference of a few hundred thousand dollars. That might be lift-changing money for you or I, but it could make a difference in future negotiations. For that reason, I say it’s money well spent.

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