I spent part of the last two days compiling a database of 78 of the higher profile arbitration-eligible players, who either were projected to make $5 mm+, or $2mm+ if this was their first year of arbitration. In each case, I tracked their service time, their position, how much total WAR they accumulated before being eligible for arbitration the first time, how much WAR they had in the season immediately preceding their first arb-eligible season and in each subsequent season, and what their arb-eligible salaries have been. I’m hoping to use it in the future to develop comps for arb-eligible players and analyze whether the team or the player has the better case in the cases that actually go to arbitration.
My first foray into this is Anthony Santander. He has demanded $2.475 mm and the O’s have offered $2.100 mm. There aren’t any great comps for Santander due to his injury history and the fact that last season was strike shortened. Santander has played many fewer major league games than almost any position player who is arb-eligible. He was worth 1.7 rWAR last year playing only 37 games of a pandemic-shortened 60-game season. He’s been worth 2.5 rWAR cumulatively in his career, playing just 177 games, accruing a slash line of .252/.292/467 with 32 HR and 99 RBI. He’s been stronger than that over the last two seasons, a factor that weighs pretty heavily in his case.
I’ve identified 5 arb-eligible outfielders who are comps for Santander. I am listing them here in order of their Arb 1 salary, from highest to lowest:
Teoscar Hernandez, $4.325 mm. Like Santander, Hernandez is eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2021. Also like Santander, Hernandez had a breakout season in 2020, posting .919 OPS compared to his .780 career mark previously. His 1.5 rWAR in 50 games was slightly less than Santander’s 1.7 in 37 games, though his OPS was higher. He rates as a below average outfielder though he has played a decent bit of CF along with both corners, mostly LF. I see two big advantages for Hernandez. First, he has more service time, 3.097 to 2.162 years of service. Second, he has played a lot more in his pre-arb years, 377 games compared to 177, accruing 3.8 rWAR compared to Santander’s 2.5. For those reasons, it is not too surprising that he will be earning almost $2 mm more than Santander no matter how the latter’s arbitration comes out.
Kyle Schwarber, $3.39 mm. Scwharber was an Arb-1 in 2019, after a 1.8 rWAR campaign in which he slashed .238/.356/.467 with 26 HR and 61 RBI. Through that point he had accrued 3.2 rWAR and slashed .228/.339/.470 in 337 games and had accrued 3.086 years of service. He’s considered a poor defensive corner OF.
Nomar Mazara, $3.30 mm. Mazara was an Arb-1 in 2019, after an 0.7 rWAR campaign in which he hit .258/.317/.436 with 20 HR and 77 RBI. Through then he had accumulated only 0.6 rWAR (net negative before 2019) and slashed .258/.320/.425 in 3.000 years of service, playing in 421 games. He is another below average defender, playing RF.
Jesse Winker, $3.15 mm. Winker was arb-eligible for the first time this offseason. Last year, he posted a 1.3 rWAR, .255/.388/.544 season with 12 HR and 23 RBI in 54 games. In his career he has totaled 2.5 rWAR, slashing .280/.380/.479 in 3.080 years of service. He appears to be below average defensively.
Brian Goodwin, $2.2 mm. Goodwin was an Arb-1 in 2020, after a 2.2 rWAR campaign in which he slashed .262/.326/.470 with 17 homers and 47 RBI. Through then he had accumulated 2.5 rWAR in his career, posting .255/.320/.461 in 307 games and had accrued 3.019 years of service. Again, Goodwin is a below average defender.
Bottom line, the fact that Santander has played only 177 major league games makes I really hard to compare him to anyone. But in terms of his production in the year before his Arb-1 season, and his total WAR through that season, his production was pretty comparable to these players even though he had played a lot less. Overall I think these comps tend to support Santander's case at $2.475 mm.