Now that the calendar has turned into 2015, the holiday season is over and we are back to normal, whether it's back to school, back to work or back to the Dodgers front office staying busy. Coming soon on the docket is salary arbitration, with a filing date of Tuesday, January 13.
Teams and players exchange salary figures on Friday, January 18, which is a usual soft deadline of sorts for deals to be struck.
During his nine years with the Rays, new Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman used a "file and go" or "file and trial" strategy, meaning that if a player filed for salary arbitration the team would end negotiations, instead preparing to go to a hearing.
It's a strategy aimed at drawing out reasonable and true offers from the player, and aimed at both reducing the number of arbitration hearings and increasing the success rate of the team in hearings. Friedman was 5-0 in arbitration cases with Tampa Bay, the last coming in 2012.
Friedman has said many times since taking over in Los Angeles that he doesn't have any hard and fast rules, and that he hasn't decided yet whether to implement the "file and go" strategy with the Dodgers.
The Dodgers haven't had a case go to a hearing since 2007.
This season, the club avoided arbitration with infielder Darwin Barney, signing him to a one-year contract worth $2.525 million on Dec. 2. That was the deadline to tender 2015 contracts to arbitration-eligible players, and the same night the club acquired Chris Heisey from the Reds.
Heisey in many ways is the outfield version of Barney, a defense-oriented player a tad down the depth chart who could either find his way on to the Dodgers bench or could be optioned to the minors if needed.
With Barney signed, the Dodgers have five players eligible for salary arbitration — closer Kenley Jansen, catcher A.J. Ellis, infielder Justin Turner, pitcher Juan Nicasio, and Heisey.
Here is a look at the 30-year-old Heisey with some comparable outfielders, and their career numbers:
|Comparable arbitration-eligible outfielders (career)|
Alejandro De Aza
|*Super two; ^Part of two-year contract, signing bonus spread over both years of deal|
This gives us a decent range of outfielders comparable to Heisey, though with Morse and Smith, and probably Joyce, their value is much more tied to their offense, while Heisey derives much of his value from his defense.
Perhaps it is more instructive to look at the launch year for each player to see if there are any trends.
|Single-season arbitration-eligible outfielders|
|Alejandro De Aza
|*Super Two; ^Part of two-year contract, signing bonus spread over both years of deal|
Morse had a monster year in 2011 that really put him on the map, and parlayed that into a nice two-year deal in Washington. He doesn't really fit into the Heisey range, though perhaps with reasonably comparable career numbers serves as an upper limit for Heisey in 2015.
De Aza got a hefty raise, more than doubling his salary from 2013 to 2014, but did that after a full season as a regular. Heisey had just 229 plate appearances in 2014, so a doubling of his salary seems highly unlikely.
The roughly 50-percent raises for Joyce and Smith also seem high, though Heisey was arguably as productive in his launch year as those two in half the playing time. Torres seems like a perfect comp, both in style and with similar numbers to Heisey both in his launch year and in his career. I have a hard time deciding whether Torres is a match for the $2.7 million salary or the 22.7-percent raise, which for Heisey would mean roughly $2.16 million in 2015.
Then again, it could come down to his reduced role with the team, as was the case with Barney, who signed for $2.525 million, a 9.8-percent raise over 2014. Not that infielders are necessarily comparable to outfielders.
The folks at MLB Trade Rumors projected a 2015 salary of $2.2 million for Heisey, though I could see an argument in Heisey's favor that he's worth every bit of the $2.7 million given to Torres in 2012, especially factoring in inflation over the last three years.
I'll guess a salary of $2.35 million for Heisey in 2015, which constitutes a 34-percent raise.
Thanks as always to the invaluable resources Baseball-Reference, Cot's Baseball Contracts, MLB Trade Rumors and FanGraphs.