Even if an arbitration hearing is necessary to establish his 2016 salary, Trevor Plouffe will be the Twins' second-highest-paid position player next season, behind only Joe Mauer.
Plouffe, coming off a 2015 season in which he hit 22 home runs with a career-high 86 RBI, proposed a $7.95 million salary Friday, the deadline for exchanging numbers for arbitration, while the Twins offered $7 million.
Even the midpoint, $7.475 million, represents a 55 percent increase over the $4.8 million the third baseman earned in 2015, and would allow him to surpass Kurt Suzuki as the team's highest-paid non-pitcher other than Mauer.
The Twins have yet to reach an agreement with Plouffe or reliever Kevin Jepsen, but they struck deals with their other four arbitration-eligible players, "so it was a pretty good day," said Rob Antony, the assistant general manager who handles contract negotiations. "Hopefully over the next few days we have some good discussions and get the other two taken care of."
It was certainly a pretty good day for Eduardo Escobar, who quadrupled his salary in his first year of arbitration eligibility. The shortstop will earn $2.15 million in 2016, he and the Twins agreed Friday, or more than four times his $532,500 salary in 2015.
In addition to Escobar, the Twins settled on salaries with:
• Reliever Casey Fien, who agreed to a $2.275 million contract after posting a 3.55 ERA in 63⅓ innings. The 32-year-old righthander received a 65 percent raise over his $1.375 million contract of a year ago.
• Utility infielder Eduardo Nunez, who accepted a $1.475 million salary, a 44 percent raise. Nunez, 28, earned $1,025,000 last year, and batted .282 with a .327 on-base percentage and .431 slugging percentage.
• Lefthanded starter Tommy Milone, who approved a $4.5 million salary Thursday.
Jepsen seems likely to join that group soon, given how close his salary request — $5.4 million — is to the Twins' offer of $5.05 million, a difference of only $350,000. The midpoint is $5.225 million, which would represent a 73 percent increase over the 31-year-old righthander's earnings of $3.025 million last year. Jepsen, who saved 10 games in his two months with the Twins, can become a free agent after the season.
If no agreement can be reached with Plouffe or Jepsen, arbitration hearings will be held in February, in which a three-member panel chooses one figure or the other. The Twins have not taken part in a hearing since 2006, when they lost to righthander Kyle Lohse for the second year in a row.
"We filed numbers that we feel we can go into a hearing room and defend, but there's always strategy to it on both sides," Antony said. "And both sides feel a responsibility to keep salaries from getting out of whack, in either direction, because it does affect others around the industry. So we'll start preparing in case there's a hearing, and hope it won't be necessary."
Pending Plouffe and Jepsen, the Twins now have $86.15 million committed to 12 players under contract for 2016, led by Mauer's $23 million.