Alfredo Simon has been in the major leagues for at least part of the last seven seasons, although he has accrued 5.142 years of major league service time. The 33 year old pitcher from the Dominican Republic has been signed as an amateur free agent, traded, released, signed again, selected in the Rule 5 draft, returned, released, signed and released twice more, placed on waivers, claimed, and finally traded once more, to the Detroit Tigers.
In his seven partial seasons in the major leagues, Simon has pitched 304 innings as a starting pitcher and 225 as a reliever. When he finally became eligible for arbitration, he was working out of the bullpen in Cincinnati, so he earned a salary of $800,000. Last year, in his second time through arbitration, he earned $1.5 million.
Injuries in the Reds’ rotation gave Simon the chance to start again, and he made the best of the opportunity. The big six-foot-six right hander made 18 starts before the All star break, going 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA, striking out 75 batters and walking 28. That earned him an All-Star selection for the National League.
Simon’s second half was not nearly as impressive, but he remained in the starting rotation for the duration of the season. That is what he’ll be considered through the arbitration process. This is very significant in terms of the salary that he will receive for the 2015 season. Working against him is his salary history, where he earned $1.5 million for the 2014 season. As we saw when we profiled the arbitration case for Al Alburquerque, relief pitchers who are not closers do not receive huge salaries, in baseball terms.
MLB Trade Rumors projects that Simon will earn $5.1 million for the 2015 season. The Tigers have seen starting pitchers earn a whole lot more than that in their final season of arbitration eligibility. Max Scherzer received a salary of $15.25 million in 2014, and David Price received $ 14 million in his third season of eligibility, while Rick Porcello was projected to earn $ 12.3 million. What those pitchers have going for them is a salary history that has escalated each season. Of course, Price and Scherzer have some Cy Young awards on their side as well, while Price and Porcello have the advantage of a "super two" head start on their arbitration class.
Finding starting pitchers with comparable circumstances is problematic, since there are not that many pitchers who move from the bullpen to the starting rotation during their fourth season in the major leagues. Luke Hochevar is one who has gone back and forth, and he earned $5.2 million with the Royals for the 2014 season -- which he spent on the disabled list. I could not find a starting pitcher who was eligible for arbitration for the final time in 2014 who received a lower salary.
Simon made 14 starts after the All Star break in 2014, pitching to a 4.52 ERA, with a WHIP of 1.44. He maintained his first half strikeout rate, at 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings, but his walk rate increased and opposing hitters batted .286 against him in the second half of the season. If the Tigers get first half Simon, he will be a bargain at $5.1 million. If he morphs back into second half Simon, the Tigers will likely have another expensive relief pitcher in their bullpen, earning more than most non-closers.