Part of the new collective bargaining agreement is the establishment of a bonus pool for players not yet eligible for salary arbitration. The total pool is $50 million, the cost of which is split equally among all 30 MLB teams, which counts against competitive balance tax payroll.
Players in this group can earn bonuses for finishing in the top five in MVP or Cy Young voting, top two for Rookie of the Year, or named to the first- or second-team All-MLB team. Dylan Cease finished second in American League Cy Young voting made second-team All-MLB, and was the highest earner among pre-arb players, at just over $2.4 million, per Jesse Rogers at ESPN. Just behind him was Yordan Alvarez, who was third in AL MVP voting and the first-team All-MLB designated hitter.
Mark Feinsand has some details of the pool payouts at MLB.com:
“Of the $50 million, $38.75 million is reserved for statistical accomplishment (based on ‘Joint WAR’), with $11.25 million set aside for players who finished high in awards voting.”
Per the CBA, that $38.75 million is divided among the top 100 pre-arb players as ranked by MLB’s version of WAR. It’s unknown what exactly goes into “Joint WAR,” as Feinsand described, but in its press release for All-MLB teams, Major League Baseball presented “aWAR” — an average of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs WAR — among its statistics.
The full list of payouts has not yet been reported, other than Rogers and Feinsand reporting the top ten payouts. Feinsand also mentioned 11 players received over $1 million, and Dodgers catcher Will Smith, who was named to second-team All-MLB, “checked in just shy of $1 million.”
Feinsand also listed eleven other players who received at least $500,000, including Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin. Both Smith and Gonsolin are eligible for salary arbitration for the first time this offseason, with Gonsolin among the “Super Two” players with two years, 152 days of major league service time. Smith earned $730,000 in 2022, so his bonus was more than his salary. Gonsolin’s bonus was about 70 percent of his $720,000 salary.
Smith had a 4.2 bWAR and 3.9 fWAR in 2022, with an average of 4.05. Gonsolin’s average was 3.65. We don’t yet know the full list of payouts, but with 78 other pre-arb players to account for, it’s safe to assume at least a handful of other Dodgers will receive some sort of bonus.
Using average WAR as a loose metric (again, we don’t know if this is exactly what MLB used), here are the next-highest-ranked pre-arb Dodgers from 2022:
- Gavin Lux 2.75
- Evan Phillips 2.5
- Trayce Thompson 2.4
- Alex Vesia 1.5
- Alden Gonzalez at ESPN talked to some front office executives after the spending spree of the winter meetings and the last week, including 11-year contracts for both Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts. Among the reactions was one general manager telling Gonzalez, “I came into this prepared for teams to spend absurd amounts of money, and somehow I’m stunned by how absurd it actually was.”=
- Old friend Cole Hamels, who signed with the Dodgers in August 2021 but did not pitch for Los Angeles, is attempting a comeback to the majors in 2023. Dan Gelston of Associated Press reported that Hamels in the last year has had surgeries on his left shoulder, right knee, and left foot. “So just understanding what was kind of wrong, getting it fixed and then actually being able to rehab it,” Hamels said, “just kind of addressing the right areas and not trying to overcompensate, I think has kind of helped.”