The 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers have nine arbitration eligible players. Those players are as follows:

  1. LHP Luis Avilan – First Year Arbitration Eligible
  2. UTL/OF Scott Van Slyke – First Year Arbitration Eligible
  3. RHP Chris Hatcher – First Year Arbitration Eligible
  4. LHP SP Alex Wood – First Year Arbitration Eligible
  5. RHP Josh Fields – First Year Arbitration Eligible
  6. OF Yasiel Puig – First Year Arbitration Eligible
  7. C Yasmani Grandal – Second Year Arbitration Eligible
  8. RHP Chin-hui Tsao – Second Year Arbitration Eligible
  9. RHP Louis Coleman – Second Year Arbitration Eligible

Arbitration refers to salary owed to a player above the Major League Minimum Salary of $507,500.00 USD. Arbitration eligibility is determined by a player’s “Major League Service Time” accrued through playing days on a Major League roster during the course a 162 game season. Sometimes a player who accrues more time quickly in their first two seasons of play becomes a “Super Two,” meaning they are arbitration eligible before they hit three years of service time. A player reaches arbitration generally after three-years, four-years, and five-years of service time. After the sixth season of play, the player become a free agent open to sign with any team. Of course, a player and team may also buyout a player’s arbitration years through a negotiated contract. Anaheim Angels outfielder Mike Trout is an example of this type of contractual buyout of arbitration years.

Practically speaking, the player, and club (Major League team) submit salary figures to each other to settle the dispute in pay. If the player and the club cannot agree, a neutral arbitrator is appointed. If the teams still cannot settle, and after each side has presented evidence, the neutral arbitrator decides on a salary figure for the player. It is of note that less than one percent of arbitration cases actually make it before a neutral arbitrator as most sides settle prior to hitting arbitration. Second, clubs have demonstrated a drastic winning percentage when cases go to arbitration.

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Per Article VI (Salaries), Section E (Salary Arbitration), subsection (10)(a) “Criteria,” of the 2012-2016 Major League Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement (“MLB CBA”) provides the following guidelines for salary arbitration:

(a) The criteria will be the quality of the Player’s contribution to his Club during the past season (including but not limited to his overall performance, special qualities of leadership and public appeal), the length and consistency of his career contribution, the record of the Player’s past compensation, comparative baseball salaries (see paragraph (11) below for confidential salary data), the existence of any physical or mental defects on the part of the Player, and the recent performance record of the Club including but not limited to its League standing and attendance as an indication of public acceptance (subject to the exclusion stated in subparagraph (b)(i) below). Any evidence may be submitted which is relevant to the above criteria, and the arbitration panel shall assign such weight to the evidence as shall appear appropriate under the circumstances. The arbitration panel shall, except for a Player with five or more years of Major League service, give particular attention, for comparative salary purposes, to the contracts of Players with Major League service not exceeding one annual service group above the Player’s annual service group. This shall not limit the ability of a Player or his representative, because of special accomplishment, to argue the equal relevance of salaries of Players without regard to service, and the arbitration panel shall give whatever weight to such argument as is deemed appropriate.

(b) Evidence of the following shall not be admissible:

(i) The financial position of the Player and the Club;

(ii) Press comments, testimonials or similar material bearing on the performance of either the Player or the Club, except that recognized annual Player awards for playing excellence shall not be excluded;

(iii) Offers made by either Player or Club prior to arbitration;

(iv) The cost to the parties of their representatives, attorneys, etc.;

(v) Salaries in other sports or occupations. [Bold emphasis above added].

Interestingly, in 2017, we have some additional issues of contention because you may have noticed that the 2012-2016 MLB CBA expires prior to 2017, specifically on December 1, 2016. Yours truly wrote about the potential MLB CBA issues and solutions previously, which you can read about here and here. Thankfully, however, it looks that the current MLB CBA rules regarding arbitration will “roll-over” as your cell phone minutes do for salary negotiations this offseason.

With the above in mind, per Tim Dierkes in “Projected Arbitration Salaries For 2017” from October 31, 2016 via MLBTradeRumors.com, he projects that the salaries for the Dodgers arbitration eligible players will be as follows (note the numbers in parenthesis are the Major League Service Time totals for each player to date):

  • Yasmani Grandal (4.115) – $5.3MM
  • Chin-hui Tsao (4.075) – $800K
  • Louis Coleman (4.018) – $1.5MM
  • Luis Avilan (3.146) – $1.5MM
  • Scott Van Slyke (3.151) – $1.3MM
  • Chris Hatcher (3.146) – $1.4MM
  • Alex Wood (3.123) – $2.0MM
  • Josh Fields (3.092) – $1.2MM
  • Yasiel Puig (3.102) – TBD

Yasiel Puig’s contractual arbitration situation is quite interesting because once he reached a certain amount of service time early in his career he guaranteed his opportunity to seek arbitration in addition to his 7-year, $42 million dollar contract signed in 2013. It is unknown whether he will seek arbitration, but if he does, it will be a smaller number based on his base contract salary, his on-the-field performance, and off-the-field issues.  Whether the Dodgers hold onto Puig, trade him, or offer more salary through arbitration is yet to be seen. We do not even know if Puig will take the chance and seek arbitration since he will receive $6.5 million in 2017 salary.

Besides Puig, our predictions are similar to MLB Trade Rumor’s so need to rehash those. We however take a differing approach and reach a different conclusion with two players based on the MLB CBA and other team factors. Specifically, we believe Grandal will be paid in the $6.0-6.5 million range and Tsao will be released (non-tendered).

Chin-hui Tsao: The 35 year-old has pitched a total of 8.2 innings since the 2007 season ended. His career earned run average (ERA) is 5.75 and his ERA in the seasons he pitched for the Dodgers has been 4.38, 10.29, and 5.40. The Dodgers took a major gamble when they signed Tsao after he was banned from the Chinese Professional Baseball League for game fixing. The Dodgers moved Tsao to the 60-day disabled list in June 2016 after he complained of triceps soreness. We figure the Dodgers would rather pay Yasiel Puig the $800,000 projected arbitration money for someone who will contribute.

Yasmani Grandal: He made $2.8 million in 2015 in his first year of arbitration eligibility. By comparison, Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters earned $5.5 million in his first year of arbitration in 2013. In Wieters second year of arbitration, he settled on a one-year contract for $7.7 million after requesting $8.75 million in 2014. Now Grandal enters his second year of arbitration and although the sides have not exchanged figures, most offer projections lie between $5.3 and $7million.

Our projection for Grandal is $6.5 million. Our projection is based on Grandal’s platform year performance in 2016. Wieters record-breaking $5.5 and $7.7 million dollar salaries in 2013 and 2014 were based on his career bulk to that point, not his platform year in 2014. In 2014, Wieters played in only 26 games, hit five home runs, and knocked in 18 RBIs. By comparison, in 2016, also Grandal’s second-year of arbitration, he had a career year and in some cases team and near league bests in games played (126), home runs (27), RBI (72), walks (64), on base percentage (.339), slugging percentage (.477), and on base plus slugging percentage (.816).

Grandal also had a better career and platform year in fielding percentage and range factor behind the plate than Wieters. He is known as one of the best pitch-framers in Major League Baseball saving a multitude of runs scored. Grandal’s WAR numbers are also much higher than Wieters. He is a fellow All-Star like Wieters and the two seasons he has been with the Dodgers since being traded for Matt Kemp from the San Diego Padres, he has led the team’s pitching staff and the franchise to its third and fourth straight National League West Division Championships.

He is one of the Dodgers leaders and best players. He is one of the best catchers in baseball. Our projection is that he will be paid between $6-6.5 million

You may also be interested in a full rundown of the Los Angeles Dodgers payroll through 2019 via Eric Stephen with TrueBlueLa.com.

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About The Author

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Jeremy M. Evans is the Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing sports and entertainment professionals in contract drafting, negotiations, licensing, and career growth. Evans is an Outreach Captain for the Sports Lawyers Association and is an award-winning attorney and community leader. He can be reached at [email protected] or via his website: www.CSLlegal.com.

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