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Alex Wood 2018 salary arbitration preview

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MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

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)

Players Years Service IP GS W-L ERA+ FIP rWAR fWAR Salary
Players Years Service IP GS W-L ERA+ FIP rWAR fWAR Salary
Alex Wood 2013-17 4.123 651⅔ 102 43-33 120 3.32 10.8 11.5 TBD
Tyson Ross* 2010-15 4.126 665⅓ 101 32-52 102 3.38 6.1 10.4 $9,625,000
Dallas Keuchel 2012-16 4.089 839 126 50-47 104 3.71 12.5 12.7 $9,150,000
Drew Smyly* 2012-16 4.154 570⅓ 85 31-27 107 3.82 9.6 8.7 $6,850,000
Garrett Richards* 2011-16 4.148 640⅔ 93 40-32 105 3.61 6.1 9.1 $6,850,000
Chris Tillman 2009-15 4.113 853⅓ 149 56-42 98 4.50 9.5 8.0 $6,225,000
Tom Koehler 2012-16 4.016 711⅔ 120 35-48 92 4.33 4.3 3.5 $5,750,000
Nathan Eovaldi 2011-15 4.013 614⅔ 106 29-38 94 3.63 6.5 8.8 $5,600,000
Matt Harvey 2012-16 4.072 519⅔ 82 29-28 128 2.79 11.2 14.1 $5,125,000
Miguel Gonzalez 2012-15 4.095 580⅓ 95 39-33 107 4.70 7.9 3.8 $5,100,000
Hector Santiago 2011-15 4.016 532⅔ 83 23-28 111 4.54 6.9 2.9 $5,000,000
*Super Two Thanks as always to MLB Trade Rumors, Cot’s Baseball Contracts & Baseball-Reference

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)

Players Years Service IP GS W-L ERA+ FIP rWAR fWAR Salary Prev $ Increase
Players Years Service IP GS W-L ERA+ FIP rWAR fWAR Salary Prev $ Increase
Alex Wood 2017 4.123 152⅓ 25 16-3 154 3.32 3.3 3.4 TBD $2,800,000 TBD
Tyson Ross* 2015 4.126 196 33 10-12 114 2.98 3.1 4.3 $9,625,000 $5,250,000 +83.3%
Dallas Keuchel 2016 4.089 168 26 9-12 86 3.87 0.5 2.7 $9,150,000 $7,250,000 +26.2%
Garrett Richards* 2016 4.148 34⅔ 6 1-3 173 3.32 0.3 0.7 $6,850,000 $6,425,000 +6.6%
Drew Smyly* 2016 4.154 175⅓ 30 7-12 82 4.49 0.0 2.0 $6,850,000 $3,750,000 +82.7%
Chris Tillman 2015 4.113 173 31 11-11 82 4.45 0.8 1.8 $6,225,000 $4,315,000 +44.3%
Tom Koehler 2016 4.016 176⅔ 33 9-13 91 4.60 0.4 1.1 $5,750,000 $3,500,000 +64.3%
Nathan Eovaldi 2015 4.013 154⅓ 27 14-3 97 3.42 2.2 3.2 $5,600,000 $3,300,000 +69.7%
Matt Harvey 2015 4.072 92⅔ 17 4-10 83 3.47 0.0 1.9 $5,125,000 $4,325,000 +18.5%
Miguel Gonzalez 2015 4.095 144⅔ 26 9-12 83 5.01 0.6 3.8 $5,100,000 $3,275,000 +55.7%
Hector Santiago 2015 4.016 180⅔ 32 9-9 105 4.54 1.8 0.8 $5,000,000 $2,290,000 +118.3%
*Super Two Thanks as always to MLB Trade Rumors, Cot’s Baseball Contracts & Baseball-Reference

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.

The guess

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.