Many of you know the gig by now. MLB players spend their early big-league careers earning roughly league minimum salaries, accumulating service time, and determining their baseline performance level at the same time. If they are good enough to a) accumulate three years of service and b) still be employed by an MLB club, they finally have the chance to let their gaming performance fuel their profitability.
These subsequent years are known as the Arbitration Years, the years in which the player is still under the “team control” of a franchise company before reaching independent representation, but years in which his previous performance and status begin to increase his salaries to drive.
It’s an outdated system in many ways, as the statistics used to fuel increases in salaries have often proven to be less important than many newer ones. Still, the basic idea is that players who play well and often will owe more money in the next year than they made in the previous year. And while this ultimately affects the bottom line of the team’s payroll, you can rest assured that even the clubs that pay these players want them to justify big raises – by definition, that means they have players who do often and well have played.
At MLB Trade Rumors, Matt Swartz has published his salary estimates for divorced players for the 2022 season. Some of the finer details in the arbitration process could produce somewhat significant outcomes – in the end, a referee is faced with an either / or decision between player requests and team offerings and does not create a center point – but these give a pretty clear idea of what financial obligations teams have with these players for the coming year.
For the Reds, Swartz has listed 11 players eligible to arbitrate, likely because his calculations were done before the Reds announced they’d removed Delino DeShields from the roster. So for now, we’ll focus on the 10 remaining on the team’s 40-man list and we’ll highlight what this means for the entire team’s payroll heading towards an important winter of roster maneuvers. For reference, we list Swartz’s estimate for 2022 of what each of these players earned during the 2021 season and what year of arbitration they enter.
- Tyler Naquin – $ 3.6 million (2021: $ 1.5 million, arb3)
- Luis Cessa – $ 1.6 million (2021: $ 1.05 million, arb2)
- Luis Castillo – $ 7.6 million (2021: $ 4.2 million, arb2)
- Amir Garrett – $ 2.2 million (2021: $ 1.5 million, arb2)
- Jesse Winker – $ 6.8 million (2021: $ 3.15 million, arb2)
- Tyler Mahle – $ 5.6 million (2021: $ 2.2 million, arb2)
- Kyle Farmer – $ 2.2M (2021: $ 640,000, arb1)
- Jeff Hoffman – $ 1.1M (2021: $ 570,000, arb1)
- Lucas Sims – $ 1.2 million (2021: $ 570,000, arb1)
- Nick Senzel – $ 1.1 million (2021: $ 570,000, arb1)
All in all, that’s a total of $ 33 million allocated to this class of 10 arbitrators for the 2022 season. The same group of 10 earned a combined $ 15.95 million in the 2021 season.
That money has to come from somewhere, of course, and we’ve known for a long time how frugal this Reds franchise can be. Ahead of last season, they dumped Archie Bradley by not listing him as an arbitrator and opting to simply fire him to the free agency instead of paying him the $ 6-7 million that he had due in this process. They followed by donating Raisel Iglesias to the Los Angeles Angels to simply move his salary off the books to bring their overall payroll up to the level Bob Castellini was comfortable with.
According to Cot’s contracts, the Reds had an opening day payroll of approximately $ 122 million in 2021. Right now, the 10 players listed above will total $ 33 million. Enter the guaranteed salaries of Joey Votto ($ 25M), Mike Moustakas ($ 16M), Eugenio Suarez ($ 11.29M), Sonny Gray ($ 10.17M), and Shogo Akiyama (Aug. Million USD) an MM for only 15 players. If the Reds choose the Wade Miley ($ 10M) and Tucker Barnhart ($ 7.5M) team options, the total for 17 players is $ 120.96M. The complicated options situation contained in left-hander Justin Wilson’s contract will most likely result in him exercising his $ 2.3 million player option for 2022, bringing that total to $ 123.26 million .
Even if the Reds choose to round out the active 26-man roster for the 2022 season with players hitting the league minimum (roughly $ 600,000 each), that’s an additional $ 4.8 million in what would increase the team’s payroll to $ 128.06 million on opening day, or just over $ 6 million more than when the 2021 campaign began.
That includes the loss of Nick Castellanos, who we all expect to terminate his contract and become a free agent again. It also involves saying goodbye to the likes of Mychal Givens and Michael Lorenzen, each of whom has reached out to the free agency. In other words, the Reds are poised to have a bigger payroll for next season than they were this year, despite some substantial deductions that have already been worked into those numbers. And you know, before we even talk about the supplements, we’d love to see them if they get another lackluster performance in the rankings compared to their peers.
Once again, it will be tricky navigation for the Reds’ front office as they are a team that consistently gives money equal or greater importance than winning baseball games. Getting better without getting more expensive is a very difficult thing to do in this monopoly vacuum called Major League Baseball, but it will likely be the route to be followed again this winter instead of spending the route “to get good enough, in order to win”. Nothing really changed about that in today’s arbitration reports, but it at least gave us a trustworthy basis from which to start thinking.