With all the money that teams are throwing around to lock up their MLB stars while they are less expensive, there are many players who are starting to look like solid candidates to receive their first big contracts or their next contract extension. While teams rely on arbitration to keep player salaries low enough so they can field a competitive squad, arbitration has its flaws.
While minor league salaries are horrendous (that’s a topic for a different day), arbitration is there more for the teams rather than the players, even though it is used as a tool to level the playing field. By having both the player and the organization engage in good-faith discussions centered on the player’s salary, it shows that both parties are willing to get to an agreed-upon amount.
However, teams seem to come into these discussions with low ball offers, not intending to damage their relationship with the player but to save themselves money. When players end up not agreeing to any of the stipulations, then it goes to arbitration, where the player and the team both present their cases in a court-style setting, with a panel of people who oversee the proceedings and ultimately provide the answer as to what the wage will be.
MLB players have to fight, early on at least, to get the necessary wages that they deserve, as teams will purposefully manipulate service time to push back their free agency for another season, as was in the famed case of Kris Bryant and now seems to be the likely result of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s case as well, although he does have an injury he is dealing with.
With teams seemingly being willing to extend their players to save money in the long run while giving players longevity and guaranteed money, here are five of some of the likeliest candidates to receive extensions.
5. Jesus Aguilar – 1B, Milwaukee Brewers
Claimed off waivers by the Brewers on Feb. 2nd of 2017, Jesus Aguilar has been an absolute steal for the Brewers to hold down their first base position. Before he was brought in, the Brew crew was relying on masher Eric Thames to hold down the position, but he is defensively challenged and now has become a bit strikeout prone as well.
Aguilar has given the Brewers 51 home runs and 160 RBIs across 282 games in two seasons, remarkable numbers for a player that could not find his forever home with the Cleveland Indians, who released him prior to signing with Milwaukee.
Aguilar is fully entrenched in the Brewers’ future and could be in line for an extension soon, although he does have three more seasons of arbitration eligibility, which takes him until he is 32. If the team were to want to buy out his final years of arbitration, they could sign him to a modest deal after this season.
Projected deal: 4 years, $18 million
4. Trea Turner – SS, Washington Nationals
A defensive whiz coming into his own offensively, Trea Turner has helped solidify the Nationals’ infield for many years to come. As is the case with Aguilar, Turner has three more seasons of arbitration eligibility, where he would be 29 years old and looking for his first big contract.
Turner is a part of the youth movement that is taking over the National League East, as the likes of Turner, Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, J.T. Realmuto, Victor Robles, and Juan Soto are all making a name for themselves in what should turn out to be one of the more contested divisional races in 2019.
Locking up Turner now would be very helpful for the Nationals, as most of their payroll is invested in their starting rotation, leaving very few dollars for positional players, a la Turner. He would command a pretty penny, an amount that Nationals and their fan base would love to pony up if it meant he was with the club for the foreseeable future.
Buying out his three remaining years of arbitration, coupled with three extra years tacked on, would put Turner in search of a new deal when he turns 32 years old.
Projected deal: 6 years, $50 million
3. Sean Manaea – SP, Oakland Athletics
Giving out money is not a common sentence that involves the words ‘Oakland Athletics,’ but Sean Manaea is a special case, one that the Athletics should make an exception for. Manaea is a standout arm in their starting rotation, a lefty that currently is earning $3.15 million in 2019.
While injuries have given him some issues in his career, the 27-year-old starter is primed for another solid season for the A’s, and they would be smart to lock him up now before his price tag gets out of their range. Manaea seems like a guy who would take a discount on this deal, saving the team money while making sure he stays with the team that drafted him back in 2013.
Projected deal: 5 years, $38 million
2. J.T. Realmuto – C, Philadelphia Phillies
The prized acquisition (via trade) for the Phillies this offseason was from a division rival, as the Miami Marlins took their prospect ransom and ran with it, sending J.T. Realmuto to their divisional rivals to help feed their playoff chase. Realmuto, one of the best catchers currently in the game, is on one of the most team-friendly deals in all of the league, as he is only earning $5.9 million this season with one more year of arbitration.
The Phillies brought the whole damn bank to their stadium in the offseason, bringing in a ton of high-money, high-production assets that can help them win their division or at least get back to the playoffs. Besides superstar Bryce Harper joining the franchise, Realmuto is the team’s next best player and should be paid like one to make sure he remains with the team for a long time.
For the package of prospects the team gave up, they will need to throw a lot of money at Realmuto to justify the deal. He only has one more season on the cheap, which means the Philadelphia front office needs to make sure they act fast on a long-term deal.
Projected deal: 8 years, $162 million
1. Marcus Stroman – SP, Toronto Blue Jays
Marcus Stroman, even though he was involved in frequent trade deadline rumors, is staying in Toronto for the foreseeable future, holding down the Blue Jays’ rotation while they develop their team back into a contender. While not the best situation for the up-and-coming star, Stroman has a great personality and is a great piece for the northern team.
Earning $7.4 million this season and in his final season of arbitration next year, this is do-or-die time for the Blue Jays. While trading him is definitely not out of the realm of possibilities, it would make more sense for the team to lock up the 27-year-old now to keep him in town.
Projected deal: 5 years, $52 million