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Gavin Lux 2024 salary arbitration preview

St. Louis Cardinals v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Gavin Lux is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, but missing all of last season with a devastating knee injury throws muddles the process of finding comparable players to the Dodgers middle infielder.

Lux has three years, 114 days of major league service time. Last year he finished two weeks shy of qualifying for Super Two status, ending up just shy of the top 22 percent among players with at least two but not yet three years of service.

The plan in 2023 was for Lux to take over at shortstop, his original position and where he played throughout the minors. But most of his time at the majors came at second base, with first Corey Seager and then Trea Turner entrenched at shortstop. But those plans went awry in just the third game of spring training, when Lux tore the ACL and sprained the LCL in his right knee, ending his season before it began.

There’s no launch year for Lux, which complicates things when it comes to determining how much he might earn through salary arbitration. In 2023, Lux earned $750,000, a little bit more than the $720,000 minimum salary. So we have to use his career numbers in trying to find players comparable to Lux.

Infielders comparable to Gavin Lux at 3 years of service time

Catchers Pos Arb year Service PA 2B 3B HR BB BA/OBP/SLG wRC+ bWAR fWAR Salary
Catchers Pos Arb year Service PA 2B 3B HR BB BA/OBP/SLG wRC+ bWAR fWAR Salary
Gavin Lux 2B/SS/LF 2024 3.114 1,003 38 12 18 101 .253/.329/.383 99 5.2 4.4 TBD
Luis Rengifo 2B/SS/3B 2023 3.043 1,213 42 7 31 80 .237/.294/.371 82 2.9 0.6 $2,300,000
Joey Wendle 2B/3B/SS 2021 3.088 1,110 57 10 16 68 .277/.332/.402 102 7.5 5.9 $2,250,000
Keston Hiura 2B/1B 2023 3.009 1,057 44 4 50 78 .238/.318/.453 105 1.5 2.9 $2,200,000
Jorge Mateo SS/2B/OF 2023 3.000 770 39 8 17 37 .226/.271/.374 81 3.5 3.0 $2,000,000
Kevin Newman SS/2B 2022 3.046 1,354 49 9 18 71 .257/.300/.353 73 2.0 0.6 $1,950,000
Garrett Hampson 2B/CF/SS 2022 3.030 1,053 37 14 24 77 .240/.298/.383 66 1.3 0.8 $1,863,000
Mike Brosseau 3B/2B/1B 2023 3.031 569 26 1 22 44 .248/.320/.432 109 3.4 2.3 $1,400,000
Dylan Moore LF/2B/SS 2022 3.000 818 34 4 29 79 .204/.301/.384 92 3.0 3.3 $1,350,000
Christian Arroyo 2B/3B/SS 2022 3.036 486 22 1 15 31 .235/.298/.391 85 1.6 0.6 $1,200,000
Ildemaro Vargas 3B/2B/SS 2023 3.007 603 27 4 12 26 .244/.279/.368 72 1.2 0.4 $975,000
Sources include MLB Trade Rumors & Cot’s Baseball Contracts

MLB Trade Rumors in October projected Lux to make $1.1 million in 2024. Jeff Euston at Cot’s Baseball Contracts has Lux at $900,000 next year. And this is where I’m flummoxed.

The comparable players above were first-time arbitration-eligible, and played at least some middle infield. If we look at the lower end of the scale, closer to where Lux is projected, he has been a much better player in total to date at this point in their career.

Here is how those players with the four lowest salaries on this list performed in their launch year leading into arbitration for the first time:

  • Mike Brosseau (2022): 160 PA, 0.5 bWAR, 0.6 fWAR
  • Dylan Moore (2021): 377 PA, 0.9 bWAR, 1.1 fWAR
  • Christian Arroyo (2021): 181 PA, 1.5 bWAR, 1.0 fWAR
  • Ildemaro Vargas (2022): 196 PA, 1.5 bWAR, 1.4 fWAR

Moore had the most playing time among that group, but was by no means a regular. These were part-time bench players, who did provide value. But Lux dwarfs them all in career numbers. Does his lost season depress his earning power that much?

Joey Wendle through 2020 had better career numbers than Lux, so it’s safe to assume Wendle’s $2.25 million in 2021 is a salary Lux shouldn’t reach. But Lux has better career marks than everyone else on this list.

I think around $1 million – the average of Cot’s and MLB Trade Rumors’ projections – is too low for Lux, though admittedly maybe his lost 2023 season will hurt him more than I anticipate. But I’m guessing $1.5 million for Lux in 2024, when he’ll have a chance to provide more data for next year’s arbitration case.