The New Year is here and the next item on baseball’s calendar is salary arbitration. Teams and arbitration-eligible players will exchange salary proposals for the coming season by 1 p.m. Friday.
The Phillies went into the offseason with nine players eligible for arbitration. That number was reduced to six when backup catcher Andrew Knapp agreed to a one-year deal worth $710,000 and infielders Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez were not tendered contracts and became free agents. Both have found news homes, Franco in Kansas City and Hernandez in Cleveland.
The Phillies have five pitchers eligible for salary arbitration. They are Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez, Adam Morgan, Hector Neris and Jose Alvarez. Catcher J.T. Realmuto rounds out the list of Phillies still eligible for arbitration.
Realmuto, coming off an All-Star season in which he won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in the National League, is projected to make over $10 million in arbitration, according to estimates from MLBTradeRumors.com.
It is possible that the Phillies will look to sign Realmuto to a one-year deal for 2020 and pursue a multi-year contract extension with him before opening day. Without the extension, Realmuto would be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season.
Alvarez and Eflin both project to make $3 million in arbitration, Morgan $1.6 million, Velasquez $3.9 million and Neris $4.7 million, according to MLBTradeRumors.com. Service time, performance and the salaries of comparable players all figure into these projections.
It is possible, likely even, that the Phillies will not officially exchange salary proposals with one or more of these players. Teams often reach agreements on one-year salaries with arbitration-eligible players in the week of the exchange deadline. Even the exchange of figures and the scheduling of an arbitration hearing does not preclude the two sides from agreeing on a negotiated salary. If the two sides cannot come to an agreement, an arbitration panel will decide the player’s salary for the coming season by picking either the player’s submission or the team’s submission. Hearings will be heard the first two weeks of February in Arizona.
With contracts already guaranteed, arbitration projections and renewals of players with less than three years of service time, the Phillies have about $202 million in payroll committed for 2020. The competitive balance tax threshold is $208 million. The Phils have never exceeded the tax and would pay a 20 percent penalty on money spent over the threshold. Ownership is mindful of the tax, but would consider going over it for the right competitive opportunity.
“I’m not going to go over the luxury tax so we have a better chance to be the second wild-card team,” managing partner John Middleton said in October. “That’s not going to happen. I think you go over the luxury tax when you’re fighting for the World Series. If you have to sign Cliff Lee and that puts you over the tax, you do it. If you have to trade for Roy Halladay and sign him to an extension and that puts you over the tax, you do it. But you don’t do it for a little gain.”