For over 26 years, the Mariners have been among the league’s leaders in amicable arbitration negotiations, with just Tom Wilhelmsen and Freddy Garcia going to arbitration hearings against the club since 1993. That streak of success continues today, with Seattle resolving the mere three arbitration-eligible deals possible before the 10 AM PT deadline today.
Mallex Smith is entering his first season of arbitration eligibility, and receives a healthy pay bump heading into his age-27 season.
Source: #Mariners, Mallex Smith settle at $2.35 million, avoiding arbitration.— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) January 10, 2020
If you read our primer on arbitration back in the start of December, or are familiar with the process otherwise, you’ll know that the actual arbitration process is A. Dependent on player production based on their listed position, B. Dependent on what other players have received in the past for similar production, and C. Typically more reliant on traditional stats like hits, runs, RBI, pitcher wins, ERA, saves, and the like, whereas front offices are more inclined to lean on modern metrics - particularly in terms of evaluating future production. How much that factored into these decisions, settled between the team and the players themselves (or their representation, more likely), is always unclear, but the MLB Trade Rumors projection for Smith sat at $2 million, so this seems about right.
For Mitch Haniger, entering his age-29 season and his first year of eligibility as well, the pay rate is a shade better, though not dramatic.
Source: #Mariners, Mitch Haniger settle at $3,010,000, avoiding arbitration.— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) January 10, 2020
Like Smith, Haniger has had above-average stretches, but Mitch would generally be regarded as a superior player despite a couple extra years under his belt. This falls almost exactly in line with the MLB TR projection of $3 million.
Lastly, reliever Sam Tuivailala came in slightly under projection in his first arb-eligible season.
Source: #Mariners, Sam Tuivailala settle at $800K, avoiding arbitration.— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) January 10, 2020
MLB TR had pegged Tui for $900k in year one of arbitration, but he fell a bit short. Despite appearing in the majors for at least one inning every year since 2014, Tuivailala was up and down for the first few years of his career but hit his stride the past few, before an Achilles injury sidelined him. Though the 27 year old has an impressive 3.33 ERA in 127 innings and still-solid 3.90/4.17 FIP/DRA, he’s been used in exclusively middle relief and setup roles, and has not recorded a single save in his career. As such, he’s the exact candidate to be underrated in arbitration, despite quite possibly being Seattle’s best current reliever.
The Mariners non-tendered Domingo Santana and Tim Beckham, so neither player will reach arbitration as they might have. Omar Narváez is in his first year of eligibility as well, who settled today for $2.75 million, but of course he is now a member of the Brewers. With these numbers settled, and a few notable deals including Mookie Betts setting a record with $27 million, and Kris Bryant agreeing at $18.6 million (though his grievance against the Cubs for service time suppression to determine if he is a free agent after this season or the next won’t be settled for another week or two), dominoes may begin falling again on the trade market. Whether Seattle gets involved or not, of course, is another matter.