Last night was the tender deadline for arbitration and pre-arbitration eligible players and the San Francisco Giants announced they’ve agreed to terms with two of those players.
Six weeks ago, I looked at MLB Trade Rumor’s arbitration projections for their six eligible players, Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater. That site’s projection system has been pretty accurate over the years, and for these two players, they had them pegged at $7.3 million and $3.6 million, respectively.
In perhaps a sign that MLBTR’s processes might need to be adjusted, the Giants actually agreed to terms higher than those projections. Yastrzemski got a 1-year, $7.9 million deal in his second year of eligibility and Austin Slater received $4 million flat in 2024.
Yastrzemski’s deal is a 29.5% raise over last season ($6.1 million) and Slater’s a 25% increase over 2023 ($3.2 million). That’s despite 22% and 50% (respectively) declines in their “value” (wins above replacement) versus the previous season.
But that’s not how arbitration works and they were due raises regardless. Players provide “surplus value” in their pre-arbitration years when they’re positive contributors to the team. These deals are effectively “market rate” for arbitration eligible players of their ilk. And, to put it another way, it’s $12 million for ~3+ “wins” (I’m talking wins above replacement, of course), which is still a lower cost than the free agent market rate for a “win,” which can range anywhere from $6 million to $10 million (if you’re the Giants).
We know what Yaz can provide when healthy: quality defense at the corners, emergency work in center, and pop. His .462 slugging percentage is 27th-best in the National League since debuting in 2019. His 10.4% walk rate is 16th. A valuable player to have.
Meanwhile, Slater’s age and injury history seems to be catching up to him — he wasn’t quite the lefty-masher of yore, but he was still very good at that function. An .800 OPS against left-handed pitching is nothing to complain about, it’s just tough since it follows seasons of .824 (2022) and .894 (2021). His defense didn’t seem to really pass the eye test, either. All that said, $4 million for a veteran platoon guy who might chip in with a win or two if everything breaks right is “market rate” and a good deal; and, because of that low price, he could be a trade chit. Let us never forget what Farhan Zaidi & Scott Harris got for Darin Ruf.
The Giants non-tendered José Cruz, Thomas Szapucki and Cole Waites.— Maria I. Guardado (@mi_guardado) November 18, 2023
These were arms on the 40-man roster who weren’t offered major league deals; but, because they are all pre-arbitration, they don’t have to clear through waivers, which means the Giants should be able to re-sign them to minor league deals (though they are free to reject them, I believe).
The main reason you’ll see guys sign minor league deals is akin to Brandon Woodruff’s situation — even though he’s expected to miss all of 2024 following shoulder surgery, by signing with a team he’ll be able to utilize their resources to help with his rehab. Otherwise, players are out of pocket on rehab, training, and development. This is the case Cole Waites likely finds himself in as he’s probable to miss all of 2024 following surgery. Szapucki had surgery in May.
Because we didn’t hear any other news, it means the Giants tendered contracts to the four other arbitration-eligible players — Thairo Estrada, Tyler Rogers, J.D. Davis, and LaMonte Wade Jr. — but didn’t come to a financial agreement yet. That deadline is around the start of Spring Training, so barring any trades or extensions, figure we’ll hear about those deals at the end of January or some time in February.