It’s never too early to think about next year. The Dodgers have 11 arbitration-eligible players (I know, I’m surprised, too), but not all of them are locks to return.
Here are Matt Swartz’s official projected arbitration salaries for the Dodgers who are eligible (service time in parenthesis).
- A.J. Ellis (5.151) – $4.5MM
- Kenley Jansen (5.073) – $11.4MM
- Justin Turner (5.045) – $5.3MM
- Chris Heisey (5.042) – $2.2MM
- Justin Ruggiano (4.123) – $2.8MM
- Juan Nicasio (4.084) – $3.1MM
- Yasmani Grandal (3.115) – $2.7MM
- Luis Avilan (3.077) – $1.1MM
- Joe Wieland (3.027) – $508K
- Scott Van Slyke (2.151) – $1.2MM
- Chris Hatcher (2.146) – $900K
Let’s break this down into yes-maybe-no terms.
All of these guys will be offered arbitration without question. Avilan, Hatcher, Van Slyke and Wieland are all cheap enough that it’d be foolish not to offer them arbitration, even if just for the hell of it. But Avilan, Hatcher and Van Slyke figure to be key contributors to the 2016 squad.
Grandal was one of the best catchers in baseball before his shoulder injury (was still tied for sixth despite the poor second half). Presumably, he’ll be healthy after an offseason of rest and could very well be one of the best in MLB next year.
Jansen is one of the best relievers in baseball and the Dodgers’ don’t have another pitcher close to him in terms of talent and production. They’ll probably do whatever it takes to keep him. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see them go to an arbitration hearing. The Dodgers haven’t gone to arbitration with a player since Joe Beimel in 2007, but if it’s going to happen, it could be against Jansen. I don’t think it’s likely, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.
Turner has been an amazing acquisition and he’s going to get a significant pay increase. He’ll also be a free agent after 2016, which could factor into whether the Dodgers want to work out a longer-term deal with him.
Paying $5 million for a backup catcher is a lot, but maybe not so much for the team with the highest payroll in baseball. With Austin Barnes around, the Dodgers could let Ellis go, but that seems unlikely. If they don’t want to pay him around the projected $4.5 million in his final year of arbitration, the Dodgers could always negotiate a different deal. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ellis get a 2-year deal at a cheaper AAV. I also think Barnes — no matter what happens with Ellis — will be on the 2016 roster. More on that later this offseason.
Nicasio was generally good for most of the season. He had a rough July (6.97 ERA), but bounced back with a good August (1.29 ERA). He really struggled down the stretch. He had a 9.00 ERA and gave up 16 hits in eight innings in September/October. While he has a great fastball, a fringy slider, inconsistent command and the inability to consistently retire left-handed hitters could have the Dodgers looking elsewhere for a reliever. There will be cheaper options available. If he isn’t tendered a contract, he could be a hot commodity on the free agent market.
Ruggiano has performed so well that he at least gets in the maybe category. I’m not convinced he’ll be back, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
Heisey was a good acquisition in terms of potential, but he didn’t really work out all that well for the Dodgers — so much so that he was traded to Toronto and eventually re-acquired. He’s out of options now, so there’s no way the Dodgers spend $2.2 million on a guy who isn’t good enough to be on the 25-man roster.
Also, don’t be surprised if the Dodgers explore a long-term deal with Jansen. He’ll be entering his age-28 season and is one of the best relievers in the Dodger history. Seeing the way some of the bullpen performed this season, this front office might make an exception to its (unconfirmed) “We don’t want to pay a lot of money for relievers” philosophy to give him a big deal. If he hits the open market after 2016, there’s every chance a team offers him ridiculous deal and he would bolt.
I could see the same for Turner, but less optimistic he will keep up his current level of production for the next 2-3 years. He’ll be 31 in November and despite a later-than-normal realization of potential, there’s no telling whether he’ll be as valuable in his age-31+ seasons.