The Rockies avoided arbitration with outfielder Drew Stubbs and potential fifth starter Juan Nicasio on Friday according to multiple Major League sources.
Stubbs, who was arbitration eligible for the second consecutive winter, agreed to a one year deal worth $4.1 million in 2014. He will be arbitration eligible again next off season before having the to potential to become a free agent leading into the 2016 season. The $4.1 million salary marks a 45 percent increase in pay from the $2.825 million contract Stubbs had last season. Not bad for a guy who who posted a .233 / .305 / .360 line with a .655 OPS and 0.6 rWAR for the Indians in 2013.
Stubbs was acquired by the Rockies back on December 18th in a deal that sent lefty reliever Josh Outman to Cleveland. He's expected to compete for playing time against Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson, and Brandon Barnes and become either the third, fourth, or fifth option in the outfield depending on how his performance stacks up. He does have a signature season in 2010 when he smacked 22 home runs and posted a 3.2 rWAR and 3.6 fWAR, but he also has a more recent season where he was dismal at the plate. In 2012, Stubbs struck out four times as often as he walked, posted just a .277 on base percentage, and a wRC+ of 65.
Nicasio on the other hand doesn't have three years of service time in the major leagues, but he was arbitration eligible for the first time this winter thanks to being what's know as a "Super 2" player. This is when someone has more than two but fewer than three years of service time and ranks in the top 22 percent players when compared to other players with less then three years of service time. With Nicasio reaching this bar, he'll be eligible for arbitration four times before he becomes a free agent at the end of the 2017 season if he continues to agree to one year deals.
Nicasio will earn $2.025 million in 2014 which represents a 412 percent increase from his 2013 league minimum salary of $491,000. I'm a little surprised the Rockies allowed the raise to get this significant without inking Nicasio to a multi-year deal. Colorado may now have to financially address their entire 2014 April rotation next off season as Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Chatwood, and Nicasio are all arbitration eligible while Jorge De La Rosa is a free agent and Brett Anderson has a $12 million option with a $1.5 million buyout.
Nicasio posted just a 5.14 ERA in 2013 (the second consecutive year he's come in over 5.00 in that category), but he's shown flashes of brilliance. In 17 of his 31 starts last year, Nicasio allowed two runs or less, although he did often struggle getting deep into games. Nicasio's biggest issue is that when he gets off track, the flood gates open, as indicated by his eight starts of allowing five or more earned runs last season. Three majors projection systems (ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver) all expect him to correct this some in 2014.
With these two potential arbitration cases taken care of, the Rockies ensured that they will not enter arbitration with any of their players for the fifth consecutive off season. The club has only entered the process three time in its history, all with relief pitchers. They lost a case to Dennys Reyes in 2002, but then beat both Sun-Woo Kim in 2006, and Brian Fuentes in 2008.
For more on arbitration in general, take a ride in the Purple Row time machine where Jabberwocky, err.... Jeff, explains the entire process.