The Dodgers came into the offseason with nine arbitration-eligible players. They non-tendered two of them and had three others added to the list as “Super Twos,” so the number currently stands at 10. Let’s take a look at who they are how much they might make.
First, let’s explain how a player becomes eligible for arbitration. For the first three years of a player’s career, he is in his “pre-arb” years, during which his team retains his rights for any amount they choose to pay that is at least the league minimum. Most of the time, a player will get the minimum in his first year and a nominal raise in each of the next two years.
Players with between three and six years of MLB service time are eligible for arbitration, meaning they submit a number they think they should be paid, the team submits a number, and then they go to court and argue about it in front of an arbitration panel, which chooses one side or the other. A player can become eligible for arbitration a year early as a “Super Two,” which means of all the players with between two and three years of service time, he’s in the top 22% in service time. This year’s cutoff for Super Two status ended up being two years and 128 days, written as 2.128.
MLB Trade Rumors has a projection system to guess how much a player will make in arbitration. It’s not exact — in the actual hearings, player representatives use specific comparisons, saying things like, “Chuck Biscuits of the Rangers got $7.3 million in arbitration three years ago with the same amount of service time, and our client has a better batting average and more home runs than he did,” etc. — but they’re a pretty good estimate.
One final note: These estimates are all already cooked into the Dodgers’ payroll estimates for 2023, so any amount above or below these numbers will move that needle up or down a bit but arbitration is unlikely to significantly alter the estimates.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the 10 Dodgers who are up for arbitration, in descending order of service time:
Julio Urias (5.117): $13.7MM
Julio is in his final year of arbitration and will become a free agent after next season. After two outstanding seasons, he figures to make a decent amount in arbitration.
Walker Buehler (4.168): $8.1MM
Buehler will miss most or all of 2023, but arbitration is all about paying players for what they’ve done, not necessarily what they will do. Buehler’s track record in his first four-plus seasons will determine his salary.
Caleb Ferguson (4.088): $1.1MM
Ferguson is on the other end of the Buehler conundrum, as his Tommy John surgery came early in his career and affects his earning potential in arbitration. (Being a reliever affects it, too, because relievers don’t make as much as starters.)
Yency Almonte (3.143): $1MM
Almonte is in his first year of arbitration and has just one season of dominance under his belt.
Will Smith (3.090): $5.2MM
Smith is in his first year of arbitration, too, and he’ll finally start to get paid. After making around the league minimum so far in his career, he’ll get a big raise now that his pay will be based on his performance.
Dustin May (3.059): $1.4MM
May, like Ferguson, will have his payday limited because of Tommy John surgery. A solid 2023 season would help him earn more in his last two years of arbitration.
Trayce Thompson (3.010): $1.7MM
Trayce finally got to three years of service time after six years in the big leagues. He had a solid year in 2022, which will earn him a nice little raise over the league minimum.
Brusdar Graterol (2.167): $1.2MM
Brusdar is the first of our Super Twos, just 13 days shy of three years. (For service time purposes 180 days is considered a full season.)
Tony Gonsolin (2.152): $3.5MM
Gonsolin is also a Super Two and will get a big raise in arbitration after posting a combined 2.51 ERA in his first four seasons.
Evan Phillips (2.136): $1.4MM
Phillips is our last Super Two, making the cut by just eight days. He had four partial seasons in the big leagues before dominating all year in 2022, and his pay will roughly double thanks to arbitration.
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