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6 Tigers players to exchange arbitration figures by Friday

Detroit’s streak of avoiding arbitration hearings could be in jeopardy.

Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Indians Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images

Friday, January 11 is the official deadline for Major League Baseball teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange salary figures for the 2019 season. The Detroit Tigers have six players eligible for arbitration this winter. Nicholas Castellanos is the big one, being eligible for the third and final time. Shane Greene is eligible for the second time, and Blaine Hardy will be eligible for the second of at least four times. Pitchers Matthew Boyd, Daniel Norris, and Michael Fulmer are eligible for the first time in their careers. The Tigers avoided arbitration with catcher James McCann and relief pitcher Alex Wilson by declining to tender them a contract offer earlier in the offseason.

If no agreement is reached between the remaining eligible players and the team, a hearing will be scheduled in early February. Hearings take place before a panel of three arbitrators who award either the player’s proposal or the team’s salary figure for a one-year contract. The salary given is always for one season.

Matt Swartz provides an annual arbitration forecast, which is published every year by MLB Trade Rumors. His projections have been very accurate, and are the ones most often cited when making payroll estimates. Here are his arbitration projections for the Tigers.

2020 Detroit Tigers arbitration-eligible players

PLAYER Service time 2019 Salary 2020 Projected
PLAYER Service time 2019 Salary 2020 Projected
Matt Boyd 3.136 2.6 M 6.4 M
Daniel Norris 4.073 1.275 M 2.9 M
Michael Fulmer 3.157 2.8 M 2.8 M
Jacoby Jones 2.125 567 K 1.4 M
Buck Farmer 3.013 571 K 1.1 M

The six arbitration eligible players, including Hardy, stand to net a combined $24.7 million in estimated salary, or increases totaling $12 million. With the additions of Tyson Ross, Matt Moore, and Jody Mercer, and the departures of Jose Iglesias, Victor Martinez, Mike Fiers, and Leonys Martin, the Tigers’ payroll will not be substantially changed in 2019. Opening Day payroll is on target for about $125 million, according to Cot’s Contracts.

Players are eligible for arbitration based on major league service time. A player with at least three but fewer than six years of service time is eligible for arbitration unless he has a previously signed contract. A player with two years and 126 days on the major league roster (including time on the disabled list) is also eligible as a “Super Two” player.

Boyd qualified as a Super Two eligible player this year while Drew VerHagen just missed out. Hardy was the Tigers’ only Super Two player last year. For the first two seasons in the major leagues, most players earn near the minimum salary of $555,000 per season.

The vast majority of players who are eligible for arbitration reach a settlement with their clubs prior to the case going for a hearing. Recently, more clubs have been taking an “offer and fight” approach, not bothering to negotiate after submitting their offers.

The Tigers managed to avoid any arbitration hearings every season under former president and general manager Dave Dombrowski, and Al Avila managed to keep that streak intact since taking over the job. There has been speculation that, with counsel John Westhoff moving into a new position, the Tigers might take a leaner, cheaper approach and start trying to keep costs down by contesting some arbitration cases.

The primary factors considered by an arbitration panel are the player’s salary history, the amount of service time, the number of games or innings that the player has played and comparable salaries for players at the same position with similar criteria. An award such as an All-Star selection, a Gold Glove, or Silver Slugger is also considered.

A club can still release a player if they settle on a non-guaranteed (arbitration) contract prior to the season. If a player is released at least 16 days prior to Opening Day, the club will owe the player one-sixth of his salary for the season. If released prior to Opening Day but within 15 days of Opening Day, he must be paid one-quarter of his annual salary.