Friday, January 10th, was the deadline for major league teams to agree on salaries with players who were eligible for arbitration this offseason. The Padres came to terms with four players before the deadline, meaning they have completed negotiations with all six of their arbitration-eligible players.
The majority of the Padres’ roster includes players who have not accrued sufficient service time to be able to negotiate their salary to at least some extent in arbitration.
Only six players were able to do so, and all of them agreed to deals without controversy over the salaries they eventually settled on with the Padres. These players were Greg Garcia, Robbie Erlin, Austin Hedges, Travis Jankowski, Kirby Yates, and Bryan Mitchell.
Ultimately, the Padres agreed to terms on salaries lower than were projected for some of the aforementioned players. On the other hand, there were players who were paid more than we were expecting. Let’s discuss each player, the salary they received, and whether his recent performance and future outlook justify their agreed-upon salaries.
Claimed off waivers this offseason from the Cardinals, this utility infielder has effectively been a replacement-level player throughout his whole career. His peak season was a 2016 campaign in which he put up 1.6 fWAR, while the highest wRC+ he’s ever put up was 111 in that same season. On a positive note, he was worth +3 runs defensively according to Fangraphs’ defensive data. At age 29, it’s hard to be optimistic about the veteran infielder improving on his performance at the big league level.
The Padres agreed with him on a $910,000 salary for the 2019 season, which was only $10,000 more than MLB Trade Rumors had projected Garcia to earn. There are certainly younger players who would be cheaper options for the team to utilize at infield positions, with higher potential than Garcia. Yet his salary is not significant enough for us to be particularly concerned about what he will be paid next season.
The lefty was just discussed in an earlier article on the site, which provides more details regarding his profile. Regardless, here’s the lowdown on Erlin: He threw a career-high number of innings, walked fewer hitters than almost any pitcher in baseball, and worked as a starting pitcher as well as a reliever for manager Andy Green. He had a much lower ERA as a reliever than he did as a starter, though — so perhaps the team should permanently move him to the bullpen. However, given the team’s lack of rotation depth and talent as the situation currently stands, look for the team to give him a shot at starting next season.
He’s another player who is actually making more money than he was projected by MLB Trade Rumors, as he and the Padres agreed upon a 2019 salary of $1.45 million. The projections estimated his salary would be $1.1 million, but we have absolutely no issues with the team paying him a little more than expected, considering how valuable he was in 2018.
A defensive catcher extraordinaire at the position, Hedges has received rave reviews from the Padres’ pitching staff. He’s consistently thrown runners out on the bases, and done a strong job of limiting opposing teams’ stolen base efforts. When he’s in the batter’s box, Hedges is far less impressive. The highest wRC+ he’s ever posted was 90, which he put up this season — while the major league average is around 100 for the statistic.
His bat has always held him back, and it looks as if it always will at this point in his career. There are signs of improvement in his game, though. His fWAR has slowly increased over the course of his major league career, which points to him being able to potentially be an above-average catcher in the coming seasons. With a 2019 salary of $2.06 million, the Padres should be happy to pay the defensive wizard more money than he was projected to be paid in 2019.
This is yet another player very similar to Hedges, in the sense that he plays elite defense in the outfield at every position. He also runs the bases very well, which is another plus to his game. He turned himself into the ideal fourth outfielder for the Padres in 2019, and Jankowski fits the profile very well. He stole 24 bases this season while appearing in 117 games.
He’s always going to be a contact hitter who tries to get on base with his legs more than anything else, but as long as he can maintain his foot speed, he’ll stick around with the Padres. With a low salary despite being arbitration-eligible, Jankowski is set to make $1.165 million in 2019. That’s lower than the $1.4 million projected for him by MLB Trade Rumors, which makes him a bargain for the team moving forward. Although he won’t likely get regular playing time in 2019, that won’t stop him from making a meaningful impact on the team during the season.
A strong reliever who started utilizing his split-change more often during the 2018 season, he was successful enough to become Brad Hand‘s replacement as the Padres’ closer. He struck out 12.86 batters per nine innings last season and was among the league’s best relief pitchers. Considering what we know about Yates, there’s not a lot else to say about him and the value he brings to the team. This is a clear late-innings reliever who will succeed in high-leverage work, and paying him just over $3 million is dirt compared with the money quality bullpen pitchers are making on the free agent market.
The pitcher brought over in the Chase Headley trade, whom the Padres touted as having high potential, has not turned out to be very useful if his first season is any indication of his talent level moving forward. He struggled to find success in the team’s rotation, and his role with the team may be in jeopardy if he pitches poorly again in 2019. Upon moving from the AL East with the Yankees to the NL West with the Padres, Mitchell’s K/9 ratio remained exactly the same at 4.68. That tells you enough about his profile to understand how his development slowed during this past season. At least the Padres will only have to pay him $900,000 next season, which is less than his projected salary of $1.2 million.
So the Padres signed some players for more money than expected, and some for less in arbitration. There weren’t any significant surprises among the figures agreed upon by the team with the six players discussed above, so the process as a whole seemed more or less fair for all sides involved. What we can certainly say is that the team lacks any players with significant arbitration salaries, which speaks to the low payroll the team currently has. In future seasons, the team will more than likely face cases with its players in which much larger sums of money are negotiated.