Yankees Arbitration Recap
Source: Duane Burleson/Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports/Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
The arbitration process can be one of the worst parts of baseball, which is why the vast majority of players come to an agreement with their team before ever having to go to an arbitration hearing. This year the Yankees have nine players that are arbitration eligible, and they managed to come to an agreement with eight of them.
In arbitration, the team puts in a salary that they think the player is worth, and the player puts in a salary that they think they are worth. Usually, the two sides will meet somewhere in the middle, but if they don't come to an agreement they go in front of an arbitrator who decides how much the player's salary will be. The arbitrator only has two options to choose from: the amount the team submits, or the amount the player submits. For example, if the Yankees submit a figure of $7 million, and the player submits a figure of $9 million, the arbitrator can't award the player $8 million. It's either $7 million or $9 million.
Arbitration hearings are the things that nightmares are made of. The whole point of the hearing is to convince the arbitrator that your side is right, so the team will take the opportunity to debate why the player isn't worth as much as they think they are, which can lead to a lot of tension moving forward. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman went through the arbitration process before this past season and tweeted this following his hearing, "The negative things that were said against me, by my own team, will never leave my mind." He then stated that "It's an extremely tough process...I went through it last year. I went through it again this year. It's not a process that is enjoyable at all. I was frustrated. I tweeted pretty much what happens during the arbitration case, which is the other side doesn't say very nice things about you, and they bring up your entire career...It's tough. It's tough to sit in a room like that for five hours, be quiet and listen to all of the things that date back to the time I was in the big leagues that worked against you. I was upset and I think I have every right. I think if I wasn't upset, it would be even weirder." As you can see, it's something that players don't want to experience.
Despite the negative aspects of arbitration, I actually think it's great for both sides, for the most part. Obviously, the hearings are terrible, but in terms of the actual contracts, it can be a great thing. The players get paid based on their performance, while the teams get the players for less than they would probably receive on the open market. A win-win situation.
Note: All projections are from MLB Trade Rumours, who have developed a system that is very accurate at projecting arbitration salaries.
Luis Severino Position: Starting Pitcher Age: 24 Year of Arbitration Eligibility: First 2018 Stats: 32 GS, 19-8, 3.39 ERA, 191 1/3 IP, 220 K, 1.145 WHIP 2018 Salary: $605K 2019 Projection: $5.1M Severino's Submitted 2019 Salary: $5.25M Yankees' Submitted 2019 Salary: $4.4M
The one player that the Yankees failed to come to an agreement with is arguably the most important player of the bunch. Severino melted down in the second half of last season but was still the team's best pitcher, and displayed his abilities to be an Ace. In his first 18 starts, Severino was 13-2 with a 1.98 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 118 1/3 innings. In his final 14 starts, Severino was 6-6 with a 5.67 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 73 innings. There's a belief that he was tipping his pitchers, which led to the second half struggles. If that's the case, it's an easy fix, and he should be in for a bounce-back year in a big way. Now, because he didn't come to an agreement with the Yankees, it looks like they may be headed to an arbitration hearing.
There is still a chance that the two sides can come to an agreement on a contract and avoid a hearing, which would seem likely since the two sides are only $800K apart. If the sides do go to a hearing though, it may turn ugly. As we saw in 2017 when Dellin Betances went to arbitration with the Yankees. Randy Levine, the President of the Yankees, said some things in the media about Betances, and you can be sure that Betances still remembers everything that was said about him. If the Yankees were smart, they would sit down with Severino and get a two-year contract sorted out, instead of going to arbitration with your best pitcher and telling him why he doesn't deserve another $800K.
Didi Gregorious Position: Shortstop Age: 28 Year of Arbitration Eligibility: Third 2018 Stats: 134 GP, 569 PA, 27 HR, 86 RBI, 10 SB, .268/.335/.494 2018 Salary: $8.25M 2019 Projection: $12.4M 2019 Salary: $11.75M
This is a solid amount for both sides. If Gregorious wasn't recovering from Tommy John surgery, which is going to force him to miss at least half of this upcoming season, he may have received more than the $12.4 million projection. However, since he will be missing such a significant amount of time, he takes a bit less money in what is his final season before becoming a free agent.
James Paxton Position: Starting Pitcher Age: 30 Year of Arbitration Eligibility: Second 2018 Stats: 28 GS, 11-6, 3.76 ERA, 160 1/3 IP, 208 K, 1.098 WHIP 2018 Salary: $4.9M 2019 Projection: $9M 2019 Salary: $8.575M
Paxton had a very good 2018 campaign, which led to the Yankees trading some top prospects to acquire him this off-season. We've yet to see how he'll perform under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium, but at under $9M, he's sure to out-perform his salary.
Sonny Gray Position: Starting Pitcher Age: 29 Year of Arbitration Eligibility: Third 2018 Stats: 23 GS, 11-9, 4.90 ERA, 130 1/3 IP, 123 K, 1.496 WHIP 2018 Salary: $6.5 2019 Projection: $9.1M 2019 Salary: $7.5M
This may be the most important salary agreement of them all. Sonny Gray sucked last season and general manager Brian Cashman has made it known that he plans on trading Gray before the season begins. It's been rumoured that the Yankees were holding off of trading Gray because CC Sabathia underwent a heart procedure. But Sabathia has been cleared to resume baseball activities, so a Gray trade should be on the horizon. I say this is the most important agreement because it's much easier for another team to take on a $7.5 million salary than $9 million. I don't think that this will lead to more teams being interested in Gray, but anything that makes a trade easier and more likely is a positive.
Position: Relief Pitcher
Year of Arbitration Eligibility: Third
2018 Stats: 66 G, 4-6, 2.70 ERA, 66 2/3 IP, 115 K, 1.050 WHIP
2018 Salary: $5.1M
2019 Projection: $6.4M
2019 Salary: $7.125M
After the debacle that was Dellin Betances' 2017 arbitration hearing, it's nice to see the two sides avoid going to battle again. Betances is currently on one of the most dominant runs of any reliever in MLB history. He's struck out 100 or more batters in each of the past five seasons and has shown no signs of slowing down. Betances is a free agent after this season and will most likely be doubling this year's salary in his next contract. For your enjoyment, here are 80 seconds of Betances nastiness:
Aaron Hicks Position: Center Field Age: 29 Year of Arbitration Eligibility: Third 2018 Stats: 137 GP, 581 PA, 27 HR, 79 RBI, 11 SB, .248/.366/.467 2018 Salary: $2.825M 2019 Projection: $6.2M 2019 Salary: $6M
Aaron Hicks has been everything the Yankees could have hoped for and more. The Yankees acquired Hicks back in 2015 for John-Ryan Murphy, who was the team's backup catcher at the time. Now Hicks has become a very good hitter while being a decent fielder with an incredible arm. If he can fine-tune a few things, he has the ability to get a nice payday as he heads into free agency.
Austin Romine Position: Catcher Age: 30 Year of Arbitration Eligibility: Third 2018 Stats: 77 GP, 265 PA, 10 HR, 42 RBI, 1 SB, .244/.295/.417 2018 Salary: $1.1M 2019 Projection: $2M 2019 Salary: $1.8M
The team's backup catcher was very reliable this past season as he had to fill in for an injured Gary Sanchez for a solid stretch of time. He's not good enough to be a full-time starter, but as a backup, there aren't many in the league who are better.
Tommy Kahnle Position: Relief Pitcher Age: 29 Year of Arbitration Eligibility: First 2018 Stats: 24 G, 2-0, 6.56 ERA, 23 1/3 IP, 30 K, 1.629 WHIP 2018 Salary: $1.3125M 2019 Projection: $1.5M 2019 Salary: $1.3875M
Kahnle had an up-and-down season. He spent the majority of it in the minors due to injury and because the Yankees elected to use other bullpen arms, such as A.J. Cole, instead. In the limited big league innings that he did pitch this past season, he struggled mightily. If he can be on the major league roster from the start of the season, I don't see why he can't go back to his 2016-2017 level of production.
Greg Bird Position: First Base Age: 26 Year of Arbitration Eligibility: First 2018 Stats: 82 GP, 311 PA, 11 HR, 38 RBI, 0 SB, .199/.286/.386 2018 Salary: $582K 2019 Projection: $1.5M 2019 Salary: $1.2M
You know that you're disliked by Yankees fans when they say that paying you $1.2 million is too much. Greg Bird had an abysmal season, finishing with a .199 batting average. Bird is an interesting, yet frustrating, case of a player. The untapped potential is undeniable. He has the power to hit 30-40 home runs in any given season and is a much-needed left-handed bat. However, whenever he's been given the chance to start for the team, he gets injured, or he plays terribly. To make matters worse for him, the team acquired Luke Voit during the 2018 season, and he came in and took the baseball world by storm with 14 home runs in 39 games for the Yankees. As of right now, it seems as if Bird and Voit will be battling for the starting first base job. However, with the signing of DJ LeMahieu, it's possible the LeMahieu may start at first, or he may become the team's third baseman, leading Miguel Andujar to shift over to first. Whatever happens, Bird better produce, or his days in the Bronx may be numbered.