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MLBTR Releases Projected Arbitration Salaries for 2018 Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

MLBTR released their 2018 salary arbitration projections yesterday morning, including for 10 Blue Jays. I had hoped they would be out in time for my look ahead to 2018 last week rather than having to spitball guesstimates, but now we can further drill down into what will be significant part of the 2018 overall budget spending.

As a brief background, arbitration awards are heavily based on “traditional“ stats like home runs, RBIs, wins, saves as well as playing time and individual awards. First time eligible players have their entire career considered; subsequently the most recent season determines what kind of raise the player gets over his most recent (“platform”) salary.

Below is a table summarizing the 2018 projections, along with a comparison to 2017 salaries and what I had roughly figured last week:

2018 salaries are overall projected to rise to $52.6-million from about $31.2-million in 2017, a rise of $21.4-million. As discussed last week, this would essentially eat up all the money coming off the books to impending free agency. And that’s before considering that the Jays didn’t pay most of Tom Koehler’s salary having only acquired him in late August.

But it makes more sense to break this down in two group. The first are the six players who are 100% locks to be tendered 2018 contracts. Their projected 2018 salaries are projected to almost double from $22.6-million to $41.1-million as four are first time eligible, though it’s actual a little short of what I was guessing. The $18.5-million projected increase to these guys offsets the entirety of Jose Bautista’s contract.

Then there’s the other four, who are potential non-tender candidates. Their projected salaries are projected to rise much more modestly, from $8.6-million to $11.5-million. That’s actually more than I was figuring, but the bigger issue is that the Blue Jays would only have paid abut $4.5-million, so keeping all of them at the projected salaries would be an increase in actual spending of about $7.0-million, not $2.9-million.

Some other points and commentary:

  • Dominic Leone is not listed, but there’s still the possibility he will be eligible as a Super Two. He came into 2017 with 1 year, 123 days of service time. Since he spent less than 20 days on option in 2017, he should receive a full year of credited service. We don’t yet know the Super Two cutoff, but 2 years, 123 days should put him pretty close to the line. My guess was $2-million if he ends up eligible.
  • I’m sure MLBTR will dive deeper into Josh Donaldson’s case at some point, but my gut feeling is the projected number is too low. The basis for comparison is limited as a superstar player in his fourth trip through arbitration, and further complicated by the fact his platform salary in 2017 is not a result of the arbitration dance last winter. But the $3.7-million increase feels light despite Donaldson missing some time in 2017 which hurt his counting stats. It’s not the best comparison since he’s a pitcher, but three years ago David Price earned a $5.75-million increase in his fourth trip through arbitration.
  • Likewise, my gut is that the forecast for Kevin Pillar is a little high. Having three full seasons helps his case despite most of his value coming on the defensive side by bolstering his counting stats. But his actual totals (.264 BA, 40 career HR, 171 RBI) are pretty underwhelming. By comparison, Xander Bogaerts and Corey Dickerson both came up short of that salary last year in the same service class, with better stats.
  • Roberto Osuna’s projection of $5.6-million matches what Trevor Rosenthal was awarded in his first year of arbitration eligibility two years ago. He’s actually a pretty good comparison, with 96 saves (at the time) to 95 for Osuna and a similar ERA. Rosenthal had more innings, but there’s also been a couple more years of salary inflation.