Alex Wood had arguably his best season in 2017, and will look to cash in this winter through salary arbitration.
Wood was 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA, a 1.057 WHIP and 151 strikeouts in his 152⅓ innings, and made his first All-Star team. With four years, 123 days of major league service time, this is Wood’s second time through the salary arbitration process, after making $2.8 million last season.
He is due a large raise in 2018, but the only question is how much. There are a good number of comparable starting pitchers with roughly the same amount of service time that Wood has now.
Wood comparable pitchers (career)
A few things stand out here. Dallas Keuchel had a Cy Young Award under his belt which boosted his salary. Matt Harvey was like Icaros, reaching rarefied air as one of the very best pitchers in baseball before Tommy John surgery exacted its ugly toll; his career bulk numbers suffer as a result. These are the only two among this group with more career WAR than Wood.
Chris Tillman had 202 more innings than Wood, but Wood has arguably better production. Wood’s numbers stack up pretty well with this group, which reminds me of his confidence when he was asked in July about the Dodgers looking for a No. 2 starting pitcher in trade.
“For my career numbers, go out and find somebody with better career numbers to be a No. 2, then come talk to me,” Wood said.
That $6.85 million for Drew Smyly really stands out as a figure that has to be surpassed by Wood, though it should be noted that Smyly, like Tyson Ross and Garrett Richards, were Super Twos, meaning they got a fourth year of salary arbitration and a head start on the process, which inflated their salaries in subsequent years.
Wood narrowly missed out on Super Two status after the 2015 season, when he fell just seven days shy of qualifying for the top 22% among major leaguers with at least two but not yet three years of major league service.
Now on to the launch seasons for each of these pitchers.
Wood comparable pitchers (single season)
Ross is the big number here, and really the outlier, though it’s easy to see why he got it, thanks to a strong 2015. Ross had higher fWAR than Wood’s launch season, 44 more innings, 61 more strikeouts and a lower FIP.
Nathan Eovaldi at $5.6 million after a strong 2015 looks like an absolute floor for Wood.
MLB Trade Rumors projected a $6.4 million salary for Wood, and as much as the Smyly number seems beatable I think Wood will end up a little lower than that. I’ll guess $6.55 million in 2018.