clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Trea Turner salary arbitration preview

New, comments

Dodgers infielder is in good company heading into 2022

Championship Series - Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Five Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Trea Turner has one more season before qualifying for free agency, and is eligible for salary arbitration. With MLB currently in a lockout, we don’t know exactly when arbitration hearings might take place, but we can at least be reasonably prepared once it happens.

Turner has five years, 135 days of major league service time, and is going through arbitration for a fourth time. He was a Super Two in 2019, among the top 22 percent of players with at least two years but not yet three years of service time, which got him an extra year of arbitration instead of the usual three seasons.

He avoided an arbitration hearing in each of the last three years by agreeing to a one-year deal with the Nationals in the days before the date for players and teams to exchange salary figures. If MLB were still open for business at the moment, the 2022 exchange date would have likely been next week.

Here’s what Turner made in each of his first three seasons eligible for arbitration:

A bedrock of the arbitration process is finding comparable players, both by performance and by service time. Turner being on the cusp of free agency narrows his field of peers, as does being a previous Super Two player. Coming off a tremendous season — leading the National League in hits, total bases, batting average, stolen bases, and fWAR, finishing fifth in NL MVP voting — stacks Turner up well with his similar, star-studded group.

Recent Super Two players in fourth arbitration year

Player Pos Year Service time Salary Prev. salary % increase WAR (yr) WAR (career) Comment
Player Pos Year Service time Salary Prev. salary % increase WAR (yr) WAR (career) Comment
Trea Turner SS/2B 2022 5.135 TBD $13,000,000 TBD 6.7 24.4 5th in '21 MVP
Kris Bryant 3B/OF 2021 5.171 $19,500,000 $18,600,000 4.84% 0.5 26.9 2016 MVP
George Springer OF 2020 5.166 $21,000,000 $12,000,000 75.00% 6.5 25.1 7th in '19 MVP
Anthony Rendon 3B 2019 5.130 $18,800,000 $12,300,000 52.85% 5.7 24.3
Josh Donaldson 3B 2018 5.158 $23,000,000 $17,000,000 35.29% 4.9 34.8 2015 MVP
Bryce Harper OF 2018 5.159 $21,600,000 $13,600,000 58.82% 4.8 26.6 2015 MVP
WAR is an average of Baseball Reference & FanGraphs Sources: MLB Trade Rumors & Cot’s Baseball Contracts

In this upper crust of former Super Two players are three players who won MVP awards before their fourth arbitration year. The last four on the list signed for a total of $840 million in free agency, with Kris Bryant currently a free agent for the first time.

Josh Donaldson in 2018 set a record for a player eligible for arbitration with his $23 million salary, a mark that was since surpassed by Nolan Arenado ($26 million in 2019) and Mookie Betts ($27 million in 2020). Donaldson’s career numbers at this point in his career outpace those of Turner, including an advantage of almost a full season’s worth of plate appearances.

  • Josh Donaldson, through 2017: 3,598 PA, 174 HR, 179 2B, 526 R, 528 RBI, 34.8 WAR
  • Trea Turner, through 2021: 3,029 PA, 103 HR, 152 2B, 485 R, 334 RBI, 203 SB, 24.4 WAR

The $23 million Donaldson earned in 2018 seems like a possibly-unreachable upper limit for Turner, but maybe not by much.

Turner’s career performance stacks up well with the other four players on the list, including nearly matching the career WAR of his former Nationals teammate Anthony Rendon at this point in their careers. Turner’s superior launch year (the season immediately preceding arbitration) should give him an advantage over Rendon’s $18.8 million in 2019.

Turner and George Springer sync up quite well, both in career performance and in the most immediate season. Springer hit 39 home runs with a 150 OPS+ for the Astros in 2019. Turner hit 28 homers with a 146 OPS+ in 2021, and added 32 steals to boot. Springer finished seventh in MVP voting, Turner was fifth. Turner made his first All-Star team in 2021, while Springer was a three-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger winner, and won a World Series MVP in 2017.

After a two-year, $24 million contract with Houston that covered his second and third arbitration seasons, Springer avoided arbitration in 2020 with a $21 million deal. Perhaps his trophy case keeps him just a notch above Turner, but maybe that gap can be closed by inflation in the two years since.

In projections back in October, Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors pegged Turner at $19.8 million in 2022, which would represent a 52-percent raise over last year. I think Turner is justified in asking for Springer money in arbitration, so I’ll put him down for $20.5 million this season.