It’s been a Marlins offseason filled with rumors, conflicting reports and inactivity, but I can guarantee you this: there will be action on Friday.
That marks the deadline for MLB teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange salary figures for the 2019 season. Historically, the Marlins have used a rigid “file-and-trial” approach; they attempt to finalize agreements with players before the deadline, but if not, the cases head to an arbitration panel (hearings are scheduled for February/early March). Most other franchises continue to negotiate during that interim period, rather than get the panel involved and risk damaging relationships.
This year, left-hander Adam Conley, shortstop Miguel Rojas, right-handers Dan Straily and José Ureña and, most notably, All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto are eligible for arbitration. Conley and Ureña are each experiencing the process for the first time.
The most accurate salary projections available to the public come from Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors. These are his estimates for the Marlins:
- J.T. Realmuto (4.038 major league service time)—$6.1 million
- Dan Straily (4.126)—$4.8 million
- José Ureña (3.040)—$3.6 million
- Miguel Rojas (4.043)—$2.6 million
- Adam Conley (2.147)—$1.3 million
That’s approximately $18.4 million. Wei-Yin Chen ($20M), Martín Prado ($15M) and Starlin Castro ($11.86M) already have guaranteed contracts on the books for this season. The remaining active roster spots will cost more than a half-million dollars each as the league minimum rises to $555,000. All in all, the Marlins figure to have an Opening Day payroll in the $80 million range, significantly lower than in 2018 (unless several major league free agents are signed). The $6.25 million spent on international amateurs Víctor Víctor Mesa and Víctor Mesa Jr. doesn’t count towards this total.
From speaking to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro and others on the Marlins beat, I do not see any of these players as candidates for contract extensions. In recent years, the club extended Giancarlo Stanton and Dee Gordon to avoid going year by year with them in arbitration.
Entering the offseason, utility man Derek Dietrich and catcher Bryan Holaday were arbitration eligible as well. Dietrich was released in late November; Holaday was outrighted to the minors, elected free agency, then re-signed with the Marlins (for slightly less money than he would’ve made in arbitration).
Of course, the situation we’re following most closely is Realmuto. How much effort will his camp put into reaching a deal with a team that he doesn’t expect to be playing for? If the Marlins hold onto him all the way through spring training, the arbitration hearing would be especially awkward.
In 2018, Realmuto’s first year of arbitration eligibility, the panel ruled in favor of the team and set his salary at $2.9 million. His 125 games played, career-best .277/.340./484 slash line, All-Star selection and Silver Slugger award will contribute to a nice raise, though he’ll still have to settle for a fraction of his market value. That is partially why he’s such a coveted trade chip right now.
How many of these five eligible players do you expect to agree with the Marlins before the deadline?