At the end of the 2014 season, the Detroit Tigers had seven players who were eligible for arbitration this offseason. They quickly took care of two of those when they placed outfielder Andy Dirks on waivers and released utility man Don Kelly. They solved a third potential arbitration case when they picked up the contract option on catcher Alex Avila. Austin Jackson and Drew Smyly would have been eligible for arbitration as well, but they were traded last July.
Rick Porcello is eligible for arbitration and was projected to earn $12.3 million for the 2015 season, but he was traded to the Boston Red Sox. Instead, the Tigers acquired Alfredo Simon from the Cincinnati Reds, a right-handed pitcher who is forecast to earn $5.1 million next season.
Simon is one of four players remaining on the Tigers’ 40-man roster who are eligible for arbitration this winter. David Price will be eligible for the fourth time as a Super Two player. Simon is eligible for the third time, Al Alburquerque for the second time, and J.D. Martinez for the first time. Simon and Price will be eligible for free agency after the 2015 season if they are not signed to contract extensions.
Under Major League Baseball's current collective bargaining agreement (CBA), a player with at least three but less than six years of major league service time is eligible for salary arbitration. A player with at least two years and approximately 120 days of major league service time is also eligible for arbitration as a "Super Two" exception.
One season of service time is credited at 172 days within a calendar year on the major league roster. Price is eight days short of six years’ service time, thanks to a well timed initial call-up while he was with the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization. Rick Porcello was just two days short of another full season. Super two players get one additional season of arbitration, but their free agency is delayed by not having that extra full season of service time.
By December 2nd each year, teams must tender a contract offer to those players. The offer must be at least 80 percent of their prior season's salary.
By January 13, 2015, if teams have not come to terms with their arbitration eligible players, those players will file for arbitration.
By January 16, 2015, salary figures will be exchanged by both sides. A majority of players eligible for arbitration do not settle on a contract until after figures have been exchanged. Arbitration hearings are then tentatively scheduled between February 1 and February 21. Pitchers and catchers generally are scheduled first, since they have to report to camp a few days earlier.
There were 179 players eligible for arbitration in 2014. Salary figures were exchanged for 39 players, or just under 22 percent. Twenty-three players were Super Two eligible. Fourteen players agreed to multi-year contract extensions. Just three cases went to an arbitration hearing in 2014, and none the previous year. Andrew Cashner of the San Diego Padres was awarded his request of $2.4 million over the club's $2.275 million offer. The Cleveland Indians won their two arbitration cases with pitchers Vinnie Pestano and Josh Tomlin.
The vast majority of cases are settled without the necessity of a hearing. In fact, the Tigers have never had an actual arbitration hearing since Dave Dombrowski became the team's general manager. If a case does go to a hearing, the arbitration panel will choose either the player's or team's salary offer. They are not allowed to choose a different number. The salary is not guaranteed, and is always for a term of one year.
The primary factors that the arbitrators consider in making an award include the player’s service time, his performance in the previous season, and salaries of players with similar service time and performance. The financial condition of the club, or any previous offers may not be considered.
The highest one year salary given to an aribitration eligible player is $15.525 million, to Max Scherzer in 2014. Prince Fielder received $15.5 million in 2011 and Cole Hamels got $15 million a year later. David Price will set a new record for a one year, arbitration eligible contract, unless he is signed to a multi-year contract before the season. Price received a $14 million salary in 2014, in his third year of eligibility.