George Springer ($22.5 mm) vs. Astros ($17.5 mm). Springer has 5.166 years of service time, six days short of free agency. He hit .292/.383/.591 last year, with 39 HR and 96 RBI, good for an OPS+ of 150 and 6.4 rWAR. For his career, he has an OPS+ of 131 and has been worth 24.6 rWAR. He made $12 mm last year as part of a 2/$24 mm contract.
By far the best comp for Springer is Bryce Harper, who also was a heavy Super-2 and earned $21.6 mm in his final Arb year. Harper had a 156 OPS+, 4.7 rWAR season before that award, and a career 140 OPS+, 26.1 rWAR. He’d made $13.1 mm the year before.
I don’t see any other really good OF comps for Springer. You have Mookie Betts at $27 mm, but he’s been worth 44 WAR, far more than Springer. Last year was close at 6.8 WAR. He’s “only” getting a $7 mm raise, unlike the $10.5 mm raise Springer seeks.
3B yields several decent comps. The best is Anthony Rendon, who was a Super-2 and earned $18.8 mm in his final Arb season. Rendon had posted a 137 OPS+ season and 4.2 rWAR. In his career to that point he had a career OPS+ of 120 and was worth 21.0 rWAR. He got a $7.2 mm raise.
On the other side of the bracket you have Josh Donaldson, who was a Super-2 and earned $23.0 mm in his final Arb year. He posted a 148 OPS+ and 5.0 rWAR before that year, and had a career 139 OPS+ and had been worth a whopping 37.5 rWAR in his career to that point. He got a $6 mm raise that year.
Where I come out is that this is a case that should settle somewhere in the middle, but that Harper comp looms large. Springer has overreached a little, but I think the Astros under reached by more. If the case goes to a hearing, I think Springer wins. If it settles, I think he gets north of the midpoint $20 mm.
Josh Hader ($6.4 mm) vs. Brewers ($4.1 mm). Hader has 2.115 years of service, the least ever to qualify as a Super-2. He had a 2.68 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 16.4 K/9 and 37 saves in 44 chances (84%), good for 2.6 rWAR. He was used in excess of 1 inning in 23 of 61 appearances. He’s been worth 6.6 rWAR in his career. He earned $688 k last year.
I’m only aware of one reliever who earned more in Arb 1 than Hader is demanding — Craig Kimbrel, who earned $7 mm in 2014. Kimbrel had in excess of 3 years of service, and in the prior season had a 1.21 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 13.2 K/9 and 50/54 saves, worth 3.1 rWAR. He’d been worth 9.5 rWAR cumulatively.
Next highest is Trevor Rosenthal in 2016, at $5.6 mm. He had more than 3 years of service, and the year before had posted a 2.10 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 10.9 K/9 and 48/51 saves, for 2.6 rWAR. He’d been worth 5.3 rWAR at that point in his career.
Roberto Osuna got paid $5.3 mm in 2018, after exactly 3 years of service. He was coming off a season where he posted a 3.38 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 11.7 K/9 and 39/49 saves for 1.4 rWAR. He’d been worth 5.3 rWAR to that point.
Alex Colome received $5.3 mm in 2018 after 3.118 years of service. He was coming off posting a 3.24 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 7.8 K/9 and 47/53 saves, for 0.8 rWAR. His career total was 4.6 rWAR at that point.
Greg Holland received $4.675 mm in 2014 with more than three years of service, coming off a season in which he posted a 1.21 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 13.8 K/9 and 47/50 saves, worth 3.1 rWAR. He’d been worth 7.4 rWAR to that point.
Kenley Jansen received $4.3 mm in 2014, with more than 3 years of service. The prior year he’d posted a 1.88 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 13.0 K/9, and 28/32 saves for 2.6 rWAR. He’d been worth 6.9 rWAR to that point.
Felipe Vazquez was a heavy Super-2 in 2018 when he signed a 4-year, $22 mm deal that paid him $3 mm in the first year. The prior year he had a 1.67 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 10.5 K/9 and 21/23 saves, worth 2.6 rWAR. He’d been worth 4.0 rWAR in his career.
That’s a lot of comps, and a mixed signal. One thing that makes Hader’s case so tricky is that he’s the lowest-tenured Super-2 ever. Colome, for example, had more than a year of additional service when he was first eligible for arbitration. And amount of service is a listed factor to be used in making arbitration awards. Then there’s the fact that Hader’s peripherals — 0.81 WHIP and 16.4 K/9 — are the best on the board, but his 2.68 ERA was just OK for a closer and his 84% save rate was very mediocre. Some of the comps I gave were a bit dated, and it does seem there’s been more favorable salaries in recent years on the list above.
I think if Hader had 3+ years of service, he’d win this case. But there’s a real risk that he loses due to his lack of tenure. I think the parties should split the baby and be done with it. Gun to my head, I’ll say the Brewers win if this goes to a hearing, but I’m only like 50.1% confident of that.
J.T. Realmuto ($12.4 mm) vs. Phillies ($10.0 mm). He has 5.038 years of service. Last year he hit .275/.328/.493 with 25 HR and 83 RBI, good for an OPS+ of 108 and 4.4 rWAR. In his career he has an OPS+ of 110 and has been worth 17.6 rWAR. He earned $5.9 mm last year.
There are not many good comps for Realmuto at C. There are only two catchers I’m aware of who earned $10 mm+ in their Arb-eligible years:
– Buster Posey was a Super-2 and signed a long term deal before his first Arb season that paid him $12.5 mm, $16.5 mm and $20 mm in his last three Arb years (2014-16). When he signed that deal after his 2012 season, he’d just been the league MVP and had been worth 7.6 rWAR. Not really a useful comp.
– Joe Mauer was paid $10.5 in his final Arb season, 2009. The prior year he’d won the batting title and been worth 5.6 rWAR, finishing 4th in the MVP voting.
Realmuto doesn’t really measure up to either of those players, but he doesn’t necessarily have to. There’s been significant salary inflation since Mauer earned $10.5 mm 11 years ago, and Realmuto is not asking for anywhere near what Posey got in his last two Arb years.
Here are some other comps among catchers:
Matt Wieters got $8.3 mm in his Arb 3 year, a modest raise from $7.7 mm after missing most of the year with TJ surgery.
Salvador Perez earned $4.2 mm in his Arb 3 season after signing a 5 year, $52.5 mm extension. He’d been worth 2.9 rWAR the prior year and 17.4 rWAR in his career to that point.
Yadier Molina earned $4.3 mm in his Arb 3 as part of a prior extension. He was coming off a 3.2 rWAR season and had been worth 8.2 rWAR to that point.
Russell Martin was a Super-2 who earned $4 mm and $7.5 mm in his last two Arb seasons. He’d been worth 18.3 rWAR going into his final Arb year.
Yasmani Grandal received $7.9 mm in his Arb 3 season. He was coming off a 2.2 rWAR campaign, and had been worth 10.3 rWAR in his career.
Overall, this is another close case. It’s pretty rare for a player’s salary to more than double in Arb 3, as Realmuto is asking. Marcus Semien, who made $5.9 mm last year as Realmuto did, is getting a raise to $13 mm coming off an 8.1 rWAR season in which he finished 3rd in the MVP voting. Realmuto is asking for almost as big a raise as that, coming off a 4.4 rWAR season. In the end, if he takes it to a hearing, I think he’ll lose. But, it’s close enough where both sides should meet somewhere near the middle and put this to bed.