The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between MLB and the MLBPA (players’ union) establishes the framework for determining the salary of major league baseball players. Before a player reaches three years of service time, the club – and the club alone – sets the salary, limited only by minimums established by the CBA. The player has no say.

After players have accumulated three years of service time, if they can’t reach an agreement with the club, they have the right to have an arbitration panel determine their salary. After a player reaches six years of service time, he becomes a free agent and can negotiate his salary with any organization.

The Arbitration Process: A panel of three neutral arbitrators are agreed to by MLB and the MLBPA through a process of strikes. After a player files for arbitration, the team and the player each submit a proposed salary. In February, the arbitrator panel conducts a hearing where each side makes the case for its own number. Then the arbitrators choose between the two proposed salaries, whichever is believed most reasonable. The arbitrators may not come up with their own salary figure or split the difference. That structure is supposed to encourage both sides to submit reasonable figures.

At any point, the player and the team can reach agreement on the player’s salary and the arbitration process is ended.

Teams try to avoid letting arbitration reach the hearing stage because that’s when it becomes deeply adversarial – the team argues why the player isn’t really that good or is undeserving – risking ill will between the club and player. The vast majority of cases get decided prior to the hearing. The Reds haven’t been through an arbitration hearing since 2004 when they “beat” Chris Reitsma.

Last year, the Reds reached agreement with Zack Cozart ($2.35 million), Aroldis Chapman ($8.05 million) and Mike Leake ($9.775 million) before the hearing. They signed multi-year contracts with Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco that established their 2015 salaries and beyond. They traded Mat Latos, Alfredo Simon and Chris Heisey before they got to the arbitration phase. They released (“non tendered”) Logan Ondrusek.

This year, only two players on the roster are eligible for arbitration: Zack Cozart and J.J. Hoover. This is Cozart’s second year of arbitration and Hoover’s first. The Reds non-tendered Jason Bourgeios, Brennan Boesch and Ryan Mattheus (who has since resigned with the Reds).

Zack Cozart and J.J. Hoover filed to begin the arbitration process on Tuesday. The deadline for the players and team to submit their proposals to the arbitrator was 1 p.m. today.

MLBTR projections: Cozart ($2.9 million) and Hoover ($1.1 million).

Update: Not much difference in the offers by the Reds and Hoover. This should settle quickly, although strange they didn’t reach an agreement before now.


24 Responses

  1. Steve Mancuso

    Clarification: When we first published this story around 1 p.m. a report from C. Trent Rosecrans was online stating that the club had reached an agreement with the two players – and that’s what we reported. A few minutes later, the story was taken down (the link doesn’t work). Neither Rosecrans or anyone else has tweeted about an agreement. So we changed our headline and deleted the final paragraph.

    Just after we published our original story, the Cincinnati Enquirer tweeted (since deleted) referencing the Rosecrans story and headline.

    Looks like what happened was a pre-written version of Rosecrans’ story was published by accident then pulled. At this time, there’s no indication that an agreement has been reached with either player. Sorry for the confusion.

    • Jack

      The Enquirer. I will leave it at that. I love this blog and is there any other blogs about the Reds I can go to? Can’t get enough about the Reds.

  2. larry papania

    I think they agree with Hoover quickly (with Chapman gone). However I think that they’ll play a little hard ball with Cozart, perhaps making an offer and sticking with it. I think they’ll risk arb. with him. He’s coming off of a severe injury, has not batted well (even for a shortstop) and since San Diego’s recent free agent signing, no one is urgently seeking a shortstop..

    • Steve Mancuso

      Depends on how far apart the two sides are and how punitive the Reds want to be over Cozart’s injury. He earned $2.35 million last year, so they have a starting point. That “no one is urgently seeking a shortstop” isn’t relevant since Cozart isn’t a free agent. He can only negotiate with the Reds. Once each side sees the number the other side filed, the mid-point becomes defined and the obvious negotiating point.

  3. Steve Mancuso

    Aroldis Chapman and the Yankees are way apart in their negotiations for the reliever’s final year of arbitration. According to John Heyman, Chapman filed at $13.1 million and the Yankees filed at $9 million. That’s a huge gap.

    • ClayMC

      While $13.1MM appears expectedly high, there’s no way an arbitrator would rule it any less reasonable than the Yankees’ $9MM filing. Seems like an extreme low-ball for a guy who many expected would be making $12MM+ this year. Chapman has all the leverage here. No reason to concede anything until the Yankees tack on another million or two to their offer.

      What is the team’s angle here? Hoping the history-hugging arbitration process won’t break the mold for a player it hasn’t seen before?

      • Shchi Cossack

        Or the pending off-field issues and possible suspension?

        Personally, the Old Cossack likes the early indication that a team is willing to play hardball (pun intended) with Chapman and his prima dona, unaccountable-for-his-actions attitude. Too bad the Reds and their coddling, don’t-rock-the-boat approach to business led them to wasting the most electric arm and wasting a sigificant investment.

    • kmartin

      I believe Andrew Miller will be paid $9M in 2016, exactly the offer to Chapman. The Yankees have announced Chapman will be the closer over Miller. I wonder if Chapman’s agent will use this to argue for the $13.1 M number.

    • whodeythinkgonnabeatthemredlegs

      Arrieta is the only player with a larger gap, 5.5M. He submitted almost double what Keuchel settled for

  4. Shchi Cossack

    In an unattributed source from MLBTR…

    •Shortstop Zack Cozart is in agreement with the Reds for an undisclosed sum, per a team announcement. He projected at $2.9MM in his second year of eligibility after a promising start to the 2015 season was cut short by a serious knee injury.

    • Shchi Cossack

      It also looks like the Reds and Hoover are only $175K apart in their submitted salaries.

      • ohiojimw

        Here is an interesting tidbit about Hoover’s situation from MLBTR

        “Also, the Reds reportedly will take any sub-$2MM contracts to a hearing, which could suggest that reliever J.J. Hoover may appear before a panel”.

        I’m not sure i follow the logic here from the team’s side. What’s the cost of preparing and presenting the case plus the possible depreciation of the player’s value via the process versus saving (at best) $175K?

      • RedAlert

        Jim, I think any semblance of logic this front office had left the building a long time ago !!! 🙂

      • larry papania

        It does seem odd that the reds would be so willing to go to the arbitrator on such a small difference in offers. I hope this is posted under Shchi’s “$175K ” difference in submitted salaries.

      • Matt

        I mostly agree with you, but just to play Devil’s Advocate…

        The one point you are forgetting is that if the Reds think they can win, that isn’t just $175k savings this year – arbitration is a raise-based system, so it will save them money all three of his arbitration seasons (since he’d have a lower base to get a raise from), for a savings of at least $175*3 = $525k

  5. ohiojimw

    The signing of Jordan Pacheco to an MiLB contract (with ST invite) by the Reds was slipped between the lines of arbitration news yesterday:

    Let’s hope this is strictly an organizational depth type move. However since Pacheco catches and plays both corner infield position (such as he does, per reports), one could see him ending up on the 25 man roster as third catcher/ general utility type if the Reds decide they need a 3rd catch until Meso is fully tested and up to speed as an everyday starter.

  6. wdwrolen2713

    According to MLB Trade Rumors, Marlins offered 25 yo OF Marcell Ozuna to the Reds for starting pitching and have MIA’s expectations have not been met. It sounds as if it is off the table for now and the Marlins will not budge on their asking price. I’ve heard that he has poor plate discipline but in 2014 hit 20+ HR with .260+ BA and over a .300 OBP. What do you all think, is there any pitcher in our system you’d trade for Ozuna? I would definitely keep anyone like Stephenson or Reed, etc. but beyond that maybe Ozuna is worth Moscot or other low-ceiling prospect? Interesting news all the same. . .

    • Bryan E

      Ozuna has an enormously high ceiling. I’d be willing to move an Amir Garrett type prospect plus a fill in to get him. He has all the things the Reds need: power, speed, defense, youth, controlability. Assuming he puts in the work to improve his plate discipline, he could be an amazing cornerstone. I wish the Reds could have put something together there. We complain about how much pitching the Reds have and then worry about trading it. At some point, you need to pull the trigger on all those prospects.

      • ohiojimw

        I agree in principle but think in this particular situation Garrett doesn’t fit the need the Marlins were supposedly looking to fill, somebody for their MLB rotation in 2016. That’s why I see Iglesias (and possibly a little additional sweetener) as the Marlin’s likely ask for Ozuna.

        Iglesias’ contract allows him to opt over into arbitration as soon as he is eligible. BBref shows him currently with 154 MLB service days. Assuming he stays on the MLB active roster or DL that makes him arb eligible NLT after the 2018 season; and possibly after the 2017 season if there are still “Super 2” guys in the new collective bargaining agreement. Depending on when it is that the Reds see themselves as being truly competitive, it might be better for them to move iglesias or Desclafani for somebody like Ozuna and lock down on then likes of Stephenson, Reed, Garrett et al.

    • ohiojimw

      Here’s the link:

      It sounds like the Marlins made a very specific take or leave it offer and were not open to negotiations. The article says Miami made the offer before signed Wei-Yin Chen. And now appears to have backed off moving Ozuna.

      Given the Marlins latin connections, it is easy to imagine they wanted Raisel Iglesias for Ozuna as he would fit their projected needs profile of an MLB ready pitcher.

  7. james garrett

    I read that as well and it struck me as odd that the article said the Reds lacked pitching depth.We do lack proven major league starters but we have pitching depth at all levels so if they would take Moscot as you mentioned that would work for me.If the Marlins expect any more then a minor leaguer with upside then they won’t get it from anybody.I like Ozuna but he took a step backwards last year and was sent to the minors for awhile.

    • Yippee

      The Reds FO has a tendency to over-value their own players, so who knows…and after getting burnt on the Latos deal last offseason I’m not surprised that they may have come at the Reds with a specific, take it/leave it offer.