The Colorado Rockies agreed to terms for the 2020 season with four of their six arbitration-eligible players at the filing deadline on Friday.
The Colorado Rockies announced today the club has agreed to terms on one-year contracts with RHP Carlos Estévez, OF David Dahl, LHP Kyle Freeland, and RHP Jon Gray to avoid arbitration. pic.twitter.com/tQfg50raKe— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) January 11, 2020
- Jon Gray was signed to a one-year, $5.6 million contract for 2020, his second year of arbitration, according to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. This matches his projected total from the arbitration model at MLB Trade Rumors. Gray earned $2.925 million in 2019. He had a rebound campaign in 2019 and put together 2.9 WARP. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to a left foot fracture.
- Kyle Freeland gets a $2.875 million contract for 2020, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. It was projected that he would earn $2.4 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility, so he gets a better-than-expected payday. Freeland’s 2019 struggles are well-documented and he heads into 2020 with much to prove.
- The team worked out a one-year, $2.475 million deal with David Dahl in his first year of arbitration eligibility, according to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. He was projected to make $3 million. Dahl has shown to be a consistent offensive threat when healthy, but he was still only able to play in 100 games in 2019.
- The team also agreed to a one-year, $1.08 million contract with Carlos Estévez for 2020, according to Robert Murray. In his first year of eligibility, Estévez will take home slightly less than his projection of $1.2 million. Estévez was healthy in 2019 and broke out into a late-inning role. Without him and Jairo Díaz having career-years at the back end of the bullpen, the relief corps would have been in particularly dire straits.
The Rockies were not able to reach agreements with two players:
- According to Mark Feinsand, Trevor Story filed for $11.5 million, while the the Rockies offered him $10.75 million. $11.5 million was Story’s exact projection for his second year of arbitration eligibility. He made $5 million in 2019. Story has cemented himself as one of the best shortstops in the game (in terms of offense, defense and baserunning) and turned in a 4.9 WARP campaign in 2019.
- Tony Wolters is in his second year of the arbitration process. Feinsand reports that Wolters filed for $2.475 million, while the Rockies countered with a $1.9 million offer. Wolters was projected to earn $2 million. He took home $960K in 2019. Wolters had a career-best season with the bat in 2019, but it was still only good for an 85 DRC+. His defense makes him good enough to stay on the roster in at least a backup capacity, but he looks to get most of the starts in 2020 as the Rockies haven’t pursued appreciable upgrades behind the plate.
The Rockies typically work out deals with their players prior to the deadline, but this was obviously not the case for Story and Wolters. Teams are able to negotiate with their players until their scheduled arbitration hearings in February (from the 3rd to the 21st of the month this offseason), but Rockies’ co-owner Dick Monfort has mentioned a “file-and-trial” approach for the team, according to Patrick Saunders. Most teams across baseball have adopted this approach, which means there will be no negotiating until the hearing.
Jeff Passan of ESPN further confirms that the Rockies are likely headed to a trial with both Story and Wolters.
Hector Neris— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 11, 2020
It remains to be seen what sort of impact this will have on the relationship between the Rockies’ front office and these two players, but arbitration hearings consist of teams essentially arguing why a player should not be paid what they believe they are worth, so you can imagine the potential consequences there. Going to a hearing with Story over $750K does not seem ideal.
There were three other arbitration cases that the Rockies were facing entering the offseason but have since been resolved:
- Scott Oberg was set to go through the arbitration process for the second time but agreed to an extension with the Rockies last month. The extension bought his final two arbitration years as well as one free agent year (with the potential for another if the Rockies exercise their club option for 2023).
- Tyler Anderson and Chad Bettis were also arbitration-eligible players, but each became roster casualties at the beginning of the offseason. Anderson was claimed off waivers by the San Francisco Giants, subsequently non-tendered and then re-signed for $1.775 million. He had been projected to earn $2.625 million in arbitration. Bettis was outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected free agency, where he remains. He was projected to make $3.8 million through the arbitration process.
With these arbitration salaries, the Rockies see their projected payroll increase from around $153 million in 2019 to a projected $160.35 million in 2020. This projection includes the actual salaries for Gray, Freeland, Dahl and Estévez, as well as the projections for Story and Wolters. This payroll increase comes without signing a single free agent to a guaranteed major league contract.
Thank you to Adam Peterson for creating this table:
Colorado Rockies Projected 2020 Payroll
|Mike Dunn buyout||$1.0|
|Chris Iannetta buyout||$0.8|