Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors has published his annual list of projected arbitration salaries for the 2018 season, and there are nine Tigers on the list. The Detroit arbitration class is projected to earn a total of $24.3 million for the 2018 season. Nick Castellanos, who is eligible for arbitration for the second time in his career, leads the pack with a projected salary of $7.6 million for the 2018 season.
There could be up to ten Tigers eligible for arbitration, depending on where the super- two cutoff lands. Blaine Hardy has two years and 130 days of service time according to Cot’s contracts. The actual super two cutoff has not yet been verified. Bryan Holaday would also be eligible for arbitration since he has over three years of service time.
Matt Swartz’s arbitration projections have become the industry standard around major league baseball, and they are very accurate, especially considering the fact that arbitrators are not necessarily baseball fans, and they can be very subjective when making their awards. Here are the Tigers who are eligible for arbitration, with service time and their projected salaries for 2018:
- Andrew Romine (5.049) – $1.9 million
- Jose Iglesias (5.036) – $5.6 million
- Alex Presley (4.056) – $1.1 millon
- Alex Wilson (4.038) – $2.1 million
- Nicholas Castellanos (4.029) – $7.6 million
- Bruce Rondon (3.098**) – $1.2 million
- Shane Greene (3.075) – $1.7 million
- Bryan Holaday* (3.056)- $800,000
- James McCann (3.028) – $2.3 million
- Blaine Hardy (2.130**) – $800,000
All via MLBTR except the following footnotes:
*Holaday’s salary is my estimate as he was omitted by MLBTR
**Service times have been updated to conform with Cot’s contracts numbers
There is an excellent chance that some of the Tigers on this list will be non-tendered if they do not reach an agreement on a contract for the 2018 season. Clubs have until December 1, 2017 to make a contract offer to their players who are under club control but not under contract for the 2018 season. If the club does not want to risk arbitration with them, the player can be non-tendered making them free agents.
For those who are offered a contract, the clubs and players must exchange salary figures by January 18, 2018, with hearings to be held in February if no agreement is reached.
Castellanos, who hit 26 home runs with 101 RBI, earned $3 million for the 2017 season in his first season of arbitration eligibility. The fact that he is projected to earn $7.6 million despite poor defense, while a defensive wizard like Jose Iglesias is projected at $5.6 million with an extra year of service time, is a strong indication of what skills are valued in Major League Baseball. Castellanos ranked 13th of 14 third basemen in the American League with an fWAR of 1.7 for the season.
Players who have accrued at least three seasons of major league service time are eligible for arbitration. When they have six years of service time, they are eligible for free agency if not signed to a contract. In addition, players who fall in the top 22 percent of service time among those with more than two but less than three years of service time are arbitration eligible as “super two” players.
Hardy is on the bubble with two years and 130 days of service. The cutoff for super two status falls somewhere between two years, 120 days and two years, 140 days. Hardy has been a regular in the Tigers’ bullpen over the past several seasons, but spent significant time in Toledo in 2017. He still has one option remaining, and would earn minor league salary while in the minors, so the risk of keeping him at a major league salary of $800,000 is not great.
The Tigers signed Presley and Holaday to minor league contracts before the season, with both players having already become eligible for arbitration. Presley was called up in May and stuck with the team through the rest of the season, batting .314 in 268 plate appearances. Holaday was called up as a third catcher in September. With McCann and John Hicks also on the roster, and Grayson Greiner being Rule 5 eligible, Holaday may once again be the odd man out.
Iglesias and Romine are the two arb-eligible Tigers with just one season remaining before being eligible for free agency. Many observers expect the Tigers to shop Iglesias, with Dixon Machado waiting in the wings. Romine has been valuable as a super utility player, but the Tigers may not want to pay $1.9 million for him in his final season of arbitration eligibility. But since the Tigers are addicted to having two backup middle infielders on the bench, and there is not much in the organization in terms of major league caliber replacements, Romine’s status may hinge on whether Ian Kinsler and/or Iglesias are still around.
Alex Wilson had an up and down season in the Tigers’ bullpen, while Shane Greene moved into the closer’s role after Justin Wilson was traded in July. Still, Alex is projected to earn more than Greene through arbitration, purely because of service time. Alex leads all Tigers relievers with 200 innings pitched and 2.0 fWAR since 2014. Lastly, what the Tigers choose to do with Bruce Rondon is a story in itself.
While Detroit may be tempted to save a few dollars by letting some of these players go, the reality is that there’s not a whole lot of major league ready talent in the upper levels of the minor league system, and they may wind up having to sign free agents or trade prospects to replace what they have.
The total salaries for ten arbitration eligible players comes to a total of $25.2 million. That is $11.5 million more than what these players earned in 2017. If the Tigers were to make no further roster additions before opening day, they would enter the 2018 season with a payroll between $125 and $130 million for the 25-man roster.