Like manna from heaven, MLB Trade Rumors released their arbitration projections for the 2021 season today. If you follow me on Twitter, you already know I’ve been on the lookout for these, as they released estimates for prior offseasons on October 10th, 9th, and 10th of 2019, 2018, and 2017, respectively.
These yearly projections are the industry standard as far as projecting salary for players eligible for arbitration goes. This offseason was a tad trickier, as the league is in uncharted waters as far as trying to determine comparisons after a pandemic-shortened 2020 season. As the article notes, arbitration is normally based on league-wide comparisons, typically to players with similar statistics and service at comparable ages and positions. However, how the league will account for suppressed traditional statistics—still the biggest factor in a largely outdated system—during a shortened season is yet to be determined.
Due to this uncertainty, Trade Rumors projected three different salaries: one based on actual statistics, one based on actual statistics scaled over 162 games, and finally one for only non-first-time eligible players in which a raise based on a full season is reduced to 37% of said raise. A better explanation can be found in the article, obviously.
Here are the projections for the players the Pittsburgh Pirates have eligible this offseason:
Josh Bell – $5.1MM / $7.2MM / $5.7MM
Steven Brault – $1.5MM / $2.5MM / $1.5MM
Nick Burdi – $600K / $600K / $600K
Kyle Crick – $800K / $900K / $800K
Michael Feliz – $1.1MM / $1.1MM / $1.1MM
Adam Frazier – $3.3MM / $5.2MM / $3.7MM
Erik González – $1.2MM / $1.9MM / $1.2MM
Chad Kuhl – $1.3MM / $2.2MM / $1.4MM
Luke Maile – $900K / $900K / $900K
Colin Moran – $1.9MM / $3.3MM / $1.9MM
Joe Musgrove – $3.2MM / $4.4MM / $3.4MM
José Osuna – $1.1MM / $1.3MM / $1.1MM
Richard Rodríguez – $1.1MM / $1.7MM / $1.1MM
Jacob Stallings – $1.0MM / $1.4MM / $1.0MM
Chris Stratton – $800K / $1.2MM / $800K
Jameson Taillon – $2.3MM / $2.3MM / $2.3MM
Trevor Williams – $3.2MM / $4.6MM / $3.5MM
John Ryan Murphy – $700K / $700K / $600K*
Nick Tropeano – $800K / $900K / $700K*
*I was getting ready to mention Murphy and Tropeano weren’t included, but noticed the article was updated, presumably after I mentioned it to them on Twitter. Not to toot my own horn…
Speculating which way the league will go is interesting. To me, the full season projection makes the most sense. I believe the union and league could get in another spat if salaries were determined on prorated statistics or raises, however. Whether you agree or not, I’d imagine the union would argue this would in effect mean prorated salaries for yet another season, which was to be a one-time thing. As the entire protracted dispute was in an effort to not set any kind of unfavorable precedent, this would obviously be a no-no for the players.
From a Pirates’ perspective, how they treat this group could really determine how their offseason goes as a whole. If you’ve been following along with me here or elsewhere, the nineteen eligible players should not come as a surprise. Even so, that’s a huge number, and with speculation that nontenders will run rampant this offseason due to reduced league-wide revenue, I could certainly see the Pirates taking that route. However, some of their most “valuable” trade pieces are here, such as Bell, Frazier, Kuhl, Musgrove, Rodríguez, Stratton, and I guess Williams. Aside from Williams—especially at $4.6M—I wouldn’t guess any of these players are at risk of being nontendered. Therefore, it’s more likely the fringe players get sacrificed from this list, while the others get tendered and Ben Cherington continues to field calls and make trade offers for the rest over the remainder of the winter.
When I breakdown what this could mean for 2021 payroll, I’ll cover this topic in greater detail at that point. For now, it’s just nice to get a kind of unofficial kick-off to the offseason.