Arbitration is just one of many items on the off-season checklist for new Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto as he seeks to revamp the club’s roster after a disappointing season.
But how Dipoto handles the club’s five arbitration-eligible players will offer another insight into his plans for 2016.
Each year, Matt Swartz at www.MLBTradeRumors.com publishes projected salaries for all arbitration-eligible players. Important qualifier: These are projections, but Swartz has a good track record.
Here are the Mariners’ five eligible players with their projected salaries:
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***First baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo (five years, 27 days of major-league service): $6.9 million in 2015. Projected for 2016: $9.1 million.
***First baseman Logan Morrison (5.069): $2.725 million in 2015. Projected for 2016: $4.1 million.
***Right-handed reliever Tom Wilhelmsen (4.089): $1.4 million in 2015. Projected for 2016: $3 million.
***Left-handed reliever Charlie Furbush (4.121): $1.3 million in 2015. Projected for 2016: $1.7 million.
***Right-handed reliever Logan Kensing (4.086): Pro-rated portion of $507,500 in 2015. Projected for 2016: $1 million.
Some issues here are readily apparent. Do the Mariners invest, roughly, $13.2 million for a Trumbo/Morrison platoon at first base? (Yes, Trumbo can play the outfield, but Dipoto is on record as wanting a more-athletic roster.)
It’s worth noting that Dipoto dealt Trumbo after the 2013 season while the two were in Anaheim — and Trumbo is again a likely trade chip. His power bat could return a player of similar value with a better-fitting skill set.
But if Trumbo stays, at that money, he’s likely to play every day. Where would that leave Morrison? Four-plus million is a lot for a part-time player with a .225/.302/.383 slash.
Keeping Wilhelmsen projects as a no-brainer. As a closer, he’s a bargain at $3 million. If he slips back into a major set-up role, he’s only slightly less of a bargain.
Furbush is an unknown since he didn’t pitch after July 7 because of a torn rotator cuff. Club officials characterize the injury as a slight tear, but there’s no guarantee he returns as a shutdown situational lefty.
Even so, in today’s market, it’s hard to imagine the Mariners won’t keep Furbush.
Kensing had a 5.87 ERA in 19 appearances after his Aug. 23 promotion from Triple-A Tacoma. If club officials believe he can be a viable bullpen piece next season, $1 million shouldn’t be an issue.
Some background on arbitration:
Players qualify once they have three full years of major-league service and remain eligible until they have six full years of service (after which they qualify for free agency).
There is a "super-2" provision: The top 22 percent of players with two-plus years of service also qualify, provided they had at least 86 days of service in the previous (2015) season.
Clubs must offer contracts to all players under their control by Dec. 2. This amounts to an offer of arbitration for qualified players. If no agreement is reached by Jan. 12, the player can file for arbitration.
The two sides then exchange figures on Jan. 15, after which an arbitration hearing is scheduled. Negotiations can continue until the arbitration panel renders a decision.
Negotiations often produce a resolution after figures are exchanged, i.e., the two sides agree to a compromise.
The procedure encourages such agreements because the panel is restricted to choosing one of the two submitted figures. Once the panel rules, its decision is final. The player receives a one-year, non-guaranteed contract.
Since the contract is non-guaranteed, the club can release the player prior to the season and pay (roughly) one-fourth or one-sixth of its value (depending on the date of the release).
But doing so — particularly if a player wins the case — opens the club to grievance filing by the players’ union on a charge of bad-faith negotiating. All contracts become 100 percent guaranteed once the season starts.