Salary arbitration season is nearly upon us, with the filing and exchange dates set for next week. In advance of those dates, we will preview the six Dodgers eligible for salary arbitration this winter, beginning with the most expensive of the group — catcher Yasmani Grandal.
With four years, 115 days of major league service time, Grandal is eligible for salary arbitration for a second time. He avoided arbitration in 2016, signing a one-year deal worth $2.8 million.
This year, the arbitration filing date is Tuesday, Jan. 10 and the exchange date is Friday, Jan. 13, the latter with players and teams swapping salary figures. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, an arbitration hearing will be heard at some point between Jan. 30 and Feb. 17.
Last year we looked at a group of five catchers comparable to Grandal in both performance and service time in recent years. Wilin Rosario’s move to the Korean Baseball Organization trims our group by one, but here is a comparison.
Grandal comparable catchers (career)
The problem in finding comparable catchers is that many of the most productive backstops signed long-term contracts well before arbitration, exchanging some financial security for below-market rates through their arb years and, in some cases, beyond. Jonathan Lucroy (2012) and Yan Gomes (2014) both signed long-term deals when they had under two years of service time, and Sal Perez (2012) signed a deal before he even reached a full year.
So it’s difficult to pin down a true comp for Grandal, who did lead all major league catchers in home runs (27) and walks (64) in 2016, and is an elite pitch framer.
I added Matt Wieters to the list of comparable players more as an upper limit. He has better career numbers than Grandal through four years of major league service, but Grandal had a better season.
Here is a look at Grandal’s comparable catchers in their launch season before heading into arbitration for a second time.
Grandal comparable catchers (single year)
The average salary for the five catchers above is $4.62 million. If we apply the average increase of 53% to Grandal, that would mean a $4.28 million salary for 2017. Using the largest increase of 76.19% (Welington Castillo), Grandal would be at $4.93 million.
Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors projected a 2017 salary of $5.3 million for Grandal. I think the number will be slightly less, at $5 million even, but again this is a difficult comp.