The Twins and their six arbitration-eligible players will trade salary offers on Friday, and if Minnesota’s history holds, most of the six will agree to new contracts by the end of the day.
In fact, four of the six eligible Twins players did exactly that one year ago. Infielders Trevor Plouffe and Eduardo Nunez and pitchers Tommy Milone and Casey Fien all quickly settled on their 2015 salaries after exchanging salary proposals with assistant general manager Rob Antony, and all four are going through the process again this year, joined by shortstop Eduardo Escobar and reliever Kevin Jepsen.
The dollar figures will be quite a bit higher this year, but Antony doesn’t believe that should make the contracts any more difficult to work out, or take any longer to settle. In fact, “sometimes the smaller-dollar cases are tougher because [$50,000, for example] is a big difference to the player,” Antony said. “I don’t think the dollars being higher will be an issue. The process is still the same.”
That process last year produced contracts totaling $14.225 million for a half-dozen contracts, led by Plouffe’s $4.8 million salary. This year’s arbitration cases could cost the Twins $10 million more.
That’s because players generally receive large raises as they accumulate service time, and five of the six Twins in this year’s group, all but Escobar, have been through the process before.
Contract projections by mlbtraderumors.com suggest that Plouffe alone will cost $7.7 million, coming off a season in which he belted 22 home runs, improved his defense and appeared in all but 10 games. And Jepsen, who saved 10 games in two months with the Twins, figures to get a big raise over last year’s $3 million salary; the website predicts Jepsen, who can become a free agent after the season, doubles his pay to $6 million.
Other mlbtraderumors.com projections: Nunez, $1.5 million, up from last year’s $1.025; Fien, $2.2 million, an increase over last year’s $1.375; Milone, $4.5 million, a 66 percent hike from last year’s $2.7 million; and Escobar, who has taken over as the Twins’ starting shortstop in each of the past two seasons, $1.8 million after earning roughly $532,000 last year. All together, the Twins’ arbitration cases total $23.7 million under those projections.
If the sides cannot come to an agreement, a three-member panel of arbitrators will hold a hearing in February, hear evidence from both sides on why their salary suggestion is justified, and choose one or the other. The Twins have not reached an arbitration hearing with a player since Kyle Lohse was awarded $3.95 million in 2006.
A year ago, the Twins signed four players just a few hours after exchanging figures, but two other contracts took longer to work out. Jordan Schaffer ($1.55 million) and Brian Duensing ($2.7 million) didn’t come to terms until a week later, causing owner Jim Pohlad to joke, as he presented Duensing with a community service award at the team’s annual Diamond Awards banquet, that “we have an arbitration case with Brian, so I can’t say anything nice about him.”