The Angels avoided arbitration with two of their four arb-eligible players on Friday, coming to terms with righty relievers Ernesto Frieri ($3.8MM) and Fernando Salas ($870K) for the 2014 season. Both pitchers are entering their first year of arbitration eligibility, but Frieri gets the much bigger raise (~$3.3MM) because of his closer pedigree. (Let’s not get into whether Salas should’ve been tendered a contract at all just yet…)
MLBTR estimated that Frieri and Salas would get $3.4 million and $700K, respectively, meaning the Halos have doled out $570K more than expected in arbitration so far. That’s not a whole lot in the big scheme of things, but every penny counts when payroll is tight. According to my spreadsheet, the extra half million leaves about $12 million in 2014 payroll for starting pitcher before hitting the luxury tax threshold of $189 million. Not a lot!
The pair of signings also means third baseman David Freese and right-hander Kevin Jepsen are the Angels’ only remaining holdouts. The good news is that the Angels do not adhere to the utterly pointless “file-and-trial” process*, so they can continue to negotiate with Freese and Jepsen over the next month and potentially avoid an official arbitration hearing. The discussions will be limited, however. Up until 10am PST Friday morning, clubs could throw pretty much any dollar amount at their arb-eligible players and hope something stuck. Now, however, formal salary figures have been submitted by both the team and the player, so any future agreement must be at a point between the two numbers exchanged.
Freese filed at $6 million, the Angels countered at $4.1 million; Jepsen filed at $1.625 million, the Angels countered at $1.3 million. If both players agree to contracts at the midpoint between the exchanged numbers, they’d earn $5.05 million and $1.45 million, respectively. Both midpoints are roughly half a million more than MLBTR estimated they’d get in arbitration this winter, so don’t look for the Halos to save any money here. The gap in the Freese figures is a pretty big one, but it shouldn’t be insurmountable — it’d be pretty awkward for Freese to get into a fight with the Angels over money before ever taking the field for them.
If either of the cases does actually go to a hearing, the arbitrator will choose one salary figure or the other — no middle ground exists at that point.
*The Braves and Reds failed to come to terms with three players each on Friday. Because they’re “file and trial,” they must now cut off discussions and prep for February arbitration hearings. It’s dumb.