MLB salary arbitration: Judge and Yankees agree to deal; Betts, Bryant, Lindor get big raises

Brian Fluharty / USA TODAY Sports

The deadline for MLB teams and arbitration-eligible players to agree on salaries for the upcoming season passed on Friday at 1 p.m. ET. Players that weren't able to agree to terms on a deal will file their numbers in preparation for an arbitration hearing.

For those unfamiliar with the arbitration process, it concerns players who have between three and six years of major-league service time. (There's also a group of players with more than two years but less than three years who are arbitration eligible, these qualify for what's called "Super Two" status.) Arbitration-eligible players have the option of presenting their case to an unbiased panel, who then decide if the player's offer is more fair than the team's.

These days, nearly every team follows the "trial-and-file" philosophy -- if the parties file numbers then they'll attend the hearing. Those hearings, during which a team has to tear down the value of one of its players, can damage the player-front office relationship. As such, it's in the best interest of both sides to avoid the hearings whenever possible.

For more on what exactly the deadline means and who exactly it concerns, here are answers to seven questions you may have about MLB's filing day. In the meantime, many of those eligible for arbitration were able to come to terms on a salary for 2020 on Friday. Let's roll through the things you need to know.

Betts sets record

Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts avoided arbitration by setting a new high mark for the highest salary awarded to an arbitration-eligible player. He'll earn $27 million for the 2020 season, surpassing Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado's previous record of $26 million, set last offseason. Betts, 27, hit .295/.391/.524 (135 OPS+) with 29 home runs, 80 RBI and an MLB-best 135 runs. Betts is in the final year of his arbitration eligibility, meaning this time next year he'll hit the open market. The Red Sox are looking to cut costs and it remains to be seen if this deal will play a factor into whether or not he's on the roster by the end of the season.

Bryant, Lindor reach eight figures

The Chicago Cubs and third baseman Kris Bryant agreed to an $18.6 million deal for the upcoming season. Bryant, 28, received a $5.7 million increase from his $12.9 million salary last season. Here's what the deal means for his pending grievance case against the Cubs

Meanwhile, Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor also avoided arbitration and will earn $17.5 million next season in a deal that also includes award incentives. Lindor, 26, hit .284/.335/.518 with an .854 OPS to go along with 32 home runs and 74 RBI in 143 games last season.

Updates on Yankees arb-eligible players

The New York Yankees have nine arbitration-eligible players this offseason, and each one is pretty important to the club in 2020. The big signing was franchise outfielder Aaron Judge, who reached an agreement with the Yankees on Friday. Judge, who turns 28 in late April, is arbitration-eligible for the first time. To date, he's given the Yankees a WAR of 18.6 (with 110 home runs, 276 walks, and plus defense across 396 games) and been paid less than $2 million total. Per Mark Feinsand, Judge and the Yankees agreed to a salary of $8.5 million for the upcoming season, so he'll roughly quadruple his career earnings in one year (while still being heavily underpaid). 

The Yankees also came to an agreement with third baseman Gio Urshela on a $2.475 million salary for the 2020 season, and starting catcher Gary Sanchez avoided arbitration with a $5 million deal. Urshela, 28, took over at third after Miguel Andujar underwent season-ending shoulder surgery and hit .314/.355/.534 with 21 home runs. Urshela played in 132 games for New York after joining the club in a trade with the Blue Jays. He's is in his first year of arbitration eligibility.

Sanchez, 27, hit .232/.316/.525 with a career-high 34 home runs in 106 games in 2019. Last season, he made $669,800 for his third year in the big leagues. Sanchez will have two more seasons of arbitration before becoming eligible for free agency.

Additionally, the Yankees on Friday came to terms with fellow arb-eligibles left-hander James Paxton, right-hander Luis Cessa, right-hander Jonathan Holder, right-hander Tommy Kahnle and left-hander Jordan Montgomery. Right-hander Chad Green was also up for arbitration, but it appears he and the Yankees did not settle prior to the deadline. 

Bellinger sets record for first-timers

Dodgers slugger and reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger is arb-eligible for the first time this winter, and prior to the deadline he and his club agreed to a deal for 2020. Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times puts the figure at $11.5 million, which would break Kris Bryant's record of $10.85 million for first-year arbitration players. 

Bellinger in his age-23 season played in 156 games and over that span hit 47 home runs, drew 95 walks, put up an OPS+ of 169, and graded out as asset in the field and on the bases. In the NL MVP balloting, Bellinger took 19 of 30 first-place votes. 

Syndergaard gets close to $10 million

The Mets and right-hander Noah Syndergaard avoided arbitration as they agreed on a deal for $9.7 million next season. It's a $3.7 million jump from his $6 million salary of last season. This is Syndergaard's third of four years as an arbitration-eligible player, and the Mets have now avoided arbitration with Syndergaard each time.

Syndergaard, 27, had a rough 2019 season in which he posted the worst ERA (4.28) of his five-year career across 32 starts for the Mets. He'll look to bounce back next year as the Mets are hoping to contend in the National League East.

Bauer agrees with the Reds

Right-hander Trevor Bauer avoided arbitration with the Cincinnati Reds by agreeing to a $17.5 million salary in 2020. Bauer's salary is the second-highest by an arbitration-eligible starting pitcher in history behind David Price, who earned $19.75 million in 2015. Bauer also avoids having to go to what would have been his third-straight hearing. His salaries for the 2018 and 2019 seasons were decided by the Cleveland Indians' arbitration panel, and Bauer won both times.

Bauer, 28, finished the 2019 season with a combined 11-13 record with Cleveland and Cincinnati last season. He recorded a 4.48 ERA, 1.249 WHIP, a career-high 253 strikeouts and a 3.09 K/BB across 213 innings. Bauer was traded to the Reds in July at the trade deadline. The 2020 season is Bauer's final year before hitting free agency.

Semien gets a $7 million raise from A's

The Oakland Athletics avoided arbitration with American League MVP finalist Marcus Semien, agreeing to a $13 million deal. It's a $7.1 million jump from the $5.9 million the shortstop earned in 2019. Semien, 29, is in his third and final year as an arbitration-eligible player before heading to free agency. Although, it's likely that Semien and the A's will work out an extension before that can happen. With his 2020 contract, Semien becomes the club's second-highest paid player, behind Khris Davis, who is set to earn $16.75 million in 2020, as part of an extension he signed before he was set to enter free agency.

Semien finished third in the AL MVP voting last season after hitting .285/.369/.522 (138 OPS+) with a career-high 33 home runs, 92 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 162 games for Oakland last season.

Many big names haven't settled

There's nothing preventing players and teams that didn't come to an agreement prior to the filing deadline from working something out before a hearing. Increasingly, though, teams that miss this deadline don't negotiate further. That means some very notable performers could be in for February arbitration hearings. ESPN's Jeff Passan notes some of those big names: George Springer of the Astros, Trevor Story of the Rockies, J.T. Realmuto of the Phillies, Andrew Benintendi of the Red Sox, Josh Hader of the Brewers, Jose Berrios of the Twins, and Joc Pederson of the Dodgers. That's not an exhaustive list, but it gives an idea of the kind of dollars still out there.

Katherine Acquavella joined CBS Sports in 2018. Her work has appeared in Yankees Magazine and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's Memories and Dreams magazine. She is a graduate of St. John's... Full Bio

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