Biggest Stories From the Arbitration Filing Deadline

The biggest surprises and most interesting news from MLB's arbitration filing deadline on Thursday afternoon.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - JULY 14: Adolis Garcia #53 of the Texas Rangers celebrates with Leody Taveras #3 after hitting a home run during the eighth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Globe Life Field on July 14, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)

Thursday afternoon was the deadline for MLB teams and players to come to agreements before exchanging figures for salary arbitration. All but 22 players have now agreed to salaries for the upcoming season.

Although the filing deadline is in the rearview mirror, teams and players can continue negotiations. Still, the deadline provides a much clearer sense of each team’s payroll picture for 2024. Most arbitration-eligible players have signed new contracts, and of those that haven’t, they will either: (a) earn the salary they filed for, (b) earn the salary their team filed for, or (c) earn a salary somewhere in between, if the two sides reach a deal before a hearing.

Here are the biggest surprises and most interesting news items from the arbitration filing deadline.

Juan Soto Surpasses Shohei Ohtani

All-Star outfielder Juan Soto avoided arbitration with the Yankees on Thursday, agreeing to a $31 million contract for 2024. He will make $1 million more than Shohei Ohtani earned last season, officially breaking the record for the largest single-year salary for an arbitration-eligible player.

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Pete Alonso of the Mets will take home the second-highest arbitration salary this season, an impressive $20.5 million. Alonso becomes just the eighth player to ever earn more than $20 million in his arbitration years, joining an impressive list that includes Soto (twice), Mookie Betts (twice), as well as Ohtani, Nolan Arenado, Josh Donaldson, Bryce Harper, and Francisco Lindor.

Adolis García and the Rangers Are a Ways Apart

In his first year of arbitration eligibility, two-time All-Star and 2023 ALCS MVP Adolis García is seeking $6.9 million, while the Rangers filed at just $5 million. García has set his sights high for his first year of arbitration, but considering what he has accomplished for his team, it’s surprising the Rangers weren’t willing to meet him halfway.

The $1.9 million difference between these two sides is the largest gap between player and team filings this offseason, just ahead of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Blue Jays.

Guerrero requested $19.9 million, easily the largest number of any player headed to an arbitration hearing, while the Blue Jays countered with $18.05 million.

The next largest gap is between Luis Arraez and the Marlins. The two-time batting champion filed at $12 million, nearly double his 2023 salary, while his team is offering $10.6 million.

Corbin Burnes Avoids Arbitration

Following last winter’s contentious hearing between the Brewers and Corbin Burnes, the two sides have avoided arbitration this time around. The 2021 NL Cy Young will take home $15.637 million next season, about half a million more than he was projected to earn.

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Given the history between these two, the specificity of that salary is noteworthy. Arbitration salaries rarely reach a third decimal place, especially when that digit is anything other than a 5. Clearly, Burnes and the Brewers were negotiating down to the last dollar.

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – SEPTEMBER 26: Corbin Burnes #39 of the Milwaukee Brewers celebrates winning the Central Division title after the game against the New York Mets at American Family Field on September 26, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Brewers defeated the Mets 8-4. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

Max Fried Finally Avoids Arbitration

After heading to arbitration in each of the past two offseasons, Max Fried and the Braves won’t have to deal with that arduous process this time around. They reached an agreement for a $15 million contract for 2024.

So, how does this affect the chances that Fried will sign an extension with Atlanta? On the one hand, the fact that they came to an agreement is a good sign there isn’t too much animosity between the two sides. On the other hand, neither side needs to negotiate anymore, so the extension window might be closing.

Shane McClanahan Signs a Two-Year Deal

Shane McClanahan is unlikely to pitch for the Rays in 2024 after undergoing Tommy John surgery last summer. Thus, the two sides agreed to a two-year contract that will guarantee McClanahan $7.2 million through 2025.

In addition, the southpaw will earn an extra $120,000 in 2025 for every start he makes in 2024. Again, it’s hard to imagine McClanahan will pitch very much this coming season, but it’s a nice bonus if he makes a quick return.

Christian Walker Signs for Well Below Projected Figure

Gold Glove first baseman Christian Walker agreed to a $10.9 million deal with the Diamondbacks in his third and final season of arbitration eligibility. That figure represents a relatively small raise after Walker earned $2.6 million in 2022 and $6.5 million in ’23. For what it’s worth, the projections at MLB Trade Rumors had him earning $12.7 million, nearly $2 million more than he signed for.

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It’s an indication that the arbitration system doesn’t properly reward first base defense – or, at least Walker’s camp doesn’t think it does. Walker has produced 8.0 FanGraphs WAR over the past two seasons, thanks to an above-average bat and a phenomenal glove. However, his salary pales in comparison to those of slugging first basemen like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Pete Alonso.

Christian Walker
PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JUNE 18: Christian Walker #53 of the Arizona Diamondbacks gets ready in the batters box against the Minnesota Twins at Chase Field on June 18, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Devin Williams Signs a New Deal

Just after the filing deadline, closer Devin Williams and the Brewers came to an agreement. Williams will earn a guaranteed $7.25 million ($7 million in salary with a $250,000 buyout for 2025), closer to the $7.3 million salary he filed for than the club’s counteroffer of $6.65 million.

However, the deal also comes with a $10.5 million club option for the following season. Thus, the Brewers are giving Williams what he wants in 2024 with the hope of retaining him at a slight discount in 2025.

The Orioles Are Going To Be Busy

More than half of the teams in the league were able to settle all of their pending arbitration cases ahead of the deadline. The Orioles, however, exchanged figures with five different players. That’s more than 20% of all players headed toward arbitration. The Marlins are the only other team to exchange figures with even three players.

The five players are outfielder Austin Hays (Arb 2), first baseman Ryan O’Hearn (Arb 3), and relievers Danny Coulombe (Arb 3), Cionel Pérez (Arb 1), and Jacob Webb (Arb 1). Combined, all five were projected to earn a mere $13.8 million in 2024.

Although the Orioles have one of the lowest projected payrolls in baseball, it appears they’re still operating under a strict budget this winter.

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