In October, MLB Trade Rumors published their always-accurate arbitration estimates for the different eligible players around the league. I took a look here, and since then, we’ve already said goodbye to Tim Federowicz. He was a fantastic Giant, leading the team in slugging percentage and OPS, and he deserves a better chance. The Giants weren’t gonna pay him $1.3 million, though.
Something has changed since that early look at possible arbitration salaries, though. Since then, the buzzword of the offseason has been luxury tax. Luxury tax luxury tax luxury tax. Can’t tax a luxury tax tax without a taxed luxury to tax luxuriously. Everything the Giants are doing this offseason, from signing Nick Hundley to trading Christian Arroyo, has been done with the luxury tax in mind. They’re roughly $12 million in salary under the threshold, but they’ll need to keep room available for midseason additions to the 40-man roster and July trades. Every move they make until the World Series is over will have to be viewed through the prism of the luxury tax.
With that in mind, let’s revisit the players who are arbitration-eligible. There’s Joe Panik, who will still be a bargain. There won’t be any long-term deals discussed with him, because that would boost his average annual value against the luxury tax, but he’s still a huge component of the Giants’ plans next year. Hunter Strickland has his flaws against left-handers, but he’s still a fine arm that can stick at the front of any bullpen. Will Smith is a talented lefty, and he’s being counted on for next year. The agents for these players will exchange numbers with the team, and nobody will be surprised by the counteroffer, and a resolution will be reached.
As a reminder, the Giants haven’t gone to arbitration with a player since A.J. Pierzynski in 2004. They’ll find the midpoint. They always do.
But then come the last two arb-eligible players we haven’t talked about. Both of them are right-handed relievers. And considering just how tight of a squeeze it’s going to be for the Giants to get under the threshold, it’s worth wondering just how much of a guarantee that both pitchers are going to be on the roster next year.
The first one to discuss is Cory Gearrin, who is projected to earn $1.6 million. This is roughly a million more than the league minimum, so it’s not as if he’s breaking the budget, but it’s a million more than Reyes Moronta or Roberto Gomez would make. There is upside with Gearrin and his delightful dancing sinker, and his 1.99 ERA is still impressive, even if it’s not the best metric for a reliever. But that million dollars could be the difference between getting under the threshold or not. That’s just how close the Giants might be.
If you figure that Mark Melancon, Smith, Strickland, and Kyle Crick are locks, that would leave three bullpen spots open for a 12-man staff. Two spots, if you consider someone like Ty Blach a lock for a LOOGY/long-relief gig. If Gearrin is back and has a spot locked down, that leaves one spot in the bullpen.
Which brings us to Sam Dyson. Of all the people who have brought cats onto my television show, Dyson might be my favorite. He throws a filthy 96-mph sinker, and you’ll never convince me that he isn’t one tweak or improvement away from absolutely dominating in the late innings. He had ups and downs after the Giants took a chance on him, but you understood why they took that risk. Because you can also understand the reward. You can see it with your own two eyes. I like making sound effects when he uncorks an especially furry sinker. “FFFFRRRPPPPooooo,” I’ll shout in my living room before being asked to leave.
At the same time, he’s being projected for a $4.6 million salary. That’s a huge chunk of the overall offseason budget. It’s not a drastic overpayment for a middle reliever, especially when you consider that relievers are the only ones getting paid this offseason, but it’s a substantial line item on the ledger.
If you want to know what I’m getting at, look at this possible bullpen for next year:
Now compare it to this possible bullpen for next year:
Does the first one make you think, “Oh, hell yeah, EVEN YEAR, BABY?” Does the second one suddenly fill you with dread in a way that the first one doesn’t?
Edit: I forgot Derek Law existed. Pretend that I didn’t do that.
If the answer to both of your questions is “no,” then you’re right to wonder if there’s a tough decision for the Giants to make. They’ve already offered Dyson arbitration, so I’m not suggesting that they just sever ties. But is there a deal to make if they’re uncomfortable with his salary next year? Is there someone interested in him at $4 million the same way the Giants would be without the fake salary cap? If the difference is between Andrew McCutchen + Reyes Moronta and Jarrett Parker + Sam Dyson, that doesn’t seem like the toughest of choices.
But we’re ahead of ourselves. The Giants will exchange salary figures with several players, and then they will come to an agreement with them. They’ll continue looking for outfielders to fill out the lineup.
If there’s a fit that’s ****this**** close to making the lineup better while barely moving over the luxury tax threshold, though, don’t be surprised if there’s a cost-cutting move that comes with one of their arb-eligible players. In a perfect world, the Giants would love to keep them all. In this world, though, there might be a tough decision for them to make.