Since today was the deadline for arbitration-eligible players to file if they had not signed a contract, this bit of news came as no surprise to the Dodgers. Teams and players will exchange arbitration figures Friday if the players haven’t re-signed by then. If needed, the arbitration hearings will be held between Feb. 1 and Feb. 21.
History says that Kershaw, Jansen and Ellis will have new contracts before February. No player has taken the Dodgers to arbitration since reliever Joe Beimel in 2007. Prior to that, it was Eric Gagne in 2004. In both cases, the arbitration panel ruled in favor of the Dodgers.
In 2013, 133 players filed for arbitration. None of those players went to a hearing — a first since salary arbitration became an option for players in 1974.
So, what can the three expect to earn?
MLBtraderumors.com predicted the salaries of the 215 arbitration-eligible players on Nov. 5 and came up with the following: $18.25 million for Kershaw, $4.8 million for Jansen and $3.2 million for Ellis.
Ellis earned $2 million last season, his first year of arbitration eligibility. Jansen wasn’t eligible for arbitration and the Dodgers renewed his contract for $512,000.
Kershaw is the biggest question mark, and the biggest question isn’t even how much he will earn but rather why he hasn’t signed a multiyear extension to remain a Dodger. He’ll be eligible for free agency at the end of the season.
Kershaw is coming off a two-year contract that paid $11 million last season, when he won the National League Cy Young award. That puts the 26-year-old in special position to negotiate. The last pitcher to enter an arbitration year having won two Cy Young awards was San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum. (Coincidentally, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, Max Scherzer, is also eligible for arbitration.)
Lincecum re-signed for two years and $40 million plus a heap of incentives. No doubt the precedent set by Lincecum’s contract will figure heavily into the negotiations.
Unless, that is, the Dodgers are still banking on re-signing Kershaw to a long-term deal that blows away Lincecum’s contract — and maybe any contract ever given a pitcher. Both sides have said next to nothing about the negotiations, except mainly to confirm they’ve taken place. If he stays healthy, Kershaw will break the bank at some point in the next year, since few pitchers have done so much so soon in their careers. Since 1900 only 13 pitchers have amassed more WAR by age 25 than Kershaw, and the list includes guys like Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Roger Clemens.
Where the two sides go from here will say a lot. They’ve had ample time to negotiate a long-term contract, but maybe Kershaw would rather test the free agent market next year.
We should find out soon enough.