The Phillies have nine players eligible for salary arbitration this offseason, which could move slowly with the current Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire on December 1.
December 1 is also the deadline for teams to non-tender players on their 40-man roster who have fewer than six years of big-league service time. When a team non-tenders a players, he becomes a free agent.
Last year, the Phillies could have non-tendered Vince Velasquez and David Hale but chose instead to re-sign them both. Velasquez signed for $4 million and Hale for $850,000. Neither lasted the full season with the Phillies, with Hale being released in late June and Velasquez the second week of September.
The lack of pitching depth -- still a problem here -- contributed to both decisions.
This year, the nine Phillies eligible for arbitration are:
- 1B Rhys Hoskins
- RHP Zach Eflin
- LHP Jose Alvarado
- INF Ronald Torreyes
- C Andrew Knapp
- OF Travis Jankowski
- RHP Seranthony Dominguez
- OF Roman Quinn
- OF Odubel Herrera
From this group of nine, the Phillies could non-tender as many as five players. It does not mean they will, but they could choose to forgo the arbitration process and let Herrera, Torreyes, Jankowski, Quinn and Knapp walk.
Players' salaries increase throughout the arbitration process. Most players go through three years of arbitration, but an additional year of arbitration goes to players with between 2 and 3 years in the majors who rank in the top 22% of service time among that group.
Again, this process could change in future years with the new CBA. As of now, the deadline to exchange figures with arbitration-eligible players in January 14, 2022.
Every year since 2010 at MLBTradeRumors.com, economist and baseball writer Matt Swartz has provided projected salaries through arbitration for every eligible player on every team. Swartz' projection system uses an algorithm that factors in a player's playing time, position, role and stats.
Keep in mind that teams can settle with their arbitration-eligible players before actually going to arbitration. The Phils did that last year with everyone on their list.
Here were Swartz' projections for the nine Phillies this time around:
Rhys Hoskins: $7.6M
Zach Eflin: $6.0M
Jose Alvarado: $1.9M
Ronald Torreyes: $1.6M
Andrew Knapp: $1.2M
Travis Jankowski: $900,000
Seranthony Dominguez: $800,000
Roman Quinn: $700,000
Odubel Herrera: $11.6M
Now, obviously Herrera's number sticks out as by far the largest and that is based on how much he's played. Over six seasons, he's compiled 2,984 major-league plate appearances, nearly 800 more than Hoskins. However, there is no chance the Phillies pay Herrera that much and there is a good chance they simply non-tender him and move on. Center field is one of their main needs and he has not proven to be the answer, even if he was the team's best option at a weak position in 2021.
The guaranteed portion of the five-year, $30.5 million contract Herrera signed with the Phillies in 2017 is complete. The Phils hold eight-figure club options on Herrera for 2022 and 2023 that can be bought out for a total of $3.5 million. (That $3.5 million is included in his total guarantee of $30.5 million.)
The Hoskins number, $7.6 million, makes sense. He made $4.8M this past season in his first year of arbitration eligibility. His final arbitration year is 2023 and the salary could rise to more than $11 million a year from now. The Phillies could also look to extend the 28-year-old Hoskins at some point in the near future. He's spent several offseasons as a rumored trade candidate but the Phillies were reminded in 2021 how important he is to their offense, and Hoskins could become even more valuable if the National League adopts the designated hitter in the new CBA.
Eflin for $6 million is interesting. If healthy, this would be a no-brainer. It still probably is a no-brainer to either settle with him or go to arbitration. But this latest knee surgery is a concern. Eflin had surgery on September 10 to repair his patellar tendon, the second surgery he's had on his right knee in the last five years. The recovery timetable is 6 to 8 months and you can bet the Phillies will proceed slowly with him, so we might not see Eflin on a major-league mound again until late May or early June of 2022.
Alvarado appeared in 64 games with the Phillies and many of them were adventures because of his lack of control. He walked or plunked 54 batters in 55⅔ innings. He also struck out 68 with an opponents' batting average of .213. Lefties went 9 for 73 (.123) against him. He can't be your most reliable reliever or probably even one of your three most reliable relievers, but he has a spot in a bullpen and the Phils still need his velocity.
Torreyes at $1.6 million is a bit much. Phillies manager Joe Girardi loves him, but you can find utilitymen for half of this. Torreyes himself earned $800,000 in 2021 and that's a more logical number for a team in the Phils' position to spend on a utility infielder. It would not be surprising if the Phils settled with Torreyes for something like $1 million. You can't overlook the fact that he hit .321/.398/.481 in 95 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, but you can't overpay for that either.
Knapp at $1.2 million is also pricey for a backup catcher who had maybe the worst offensive season of any position player in baseball. He hit .152/.215/.214 in 159 plate appearances, with more than six times as many strikeouts as walks and a total of five extra-base hits. The Phillies have long liked the way he handles their pitching staff but they could stand to upgrade at this spot, and if you're paying over $1 million for your backup catcher, you need him to be able to provide the occasional offensive lift or be a consistently strong defender.
Jankowski was outfield depth in 2021, and as with Torreyes, there doesn't seem to be much of a point in guaranteeing him major-league money when you can find a comparable fifth outfielder (or even Jankowski himself) on a minor-league deal.
Quinn, whose projected arbitration salary is $200,000 less than Jankowski's, is in a different spot. Quinn is two years younger and has a skill set with speed and defense that can boost a bench. He's injured every year and can't be relied on as a starter, but there doesn't seem to be much harm in paying him $800,000 rather than letting him walk.
Dominguez, given his velocity and upside, the promise he showed in 2018 and the Phillies' lack of relievers, should be back as well.