With Major League Baseball’s arbitration deadline coming up on January 15 (Friday), this should be a very interesting week for the Colorado Rockies and their fans.
January 15 is the deadline for arbitration-eligible MLB players and teams to submit salary figures for the upcoming season. The Colorado Rockies have eight players eligible for arbitration, and six of them are pitchers. Starting pitchers Kyle Freeland, Jon Gray, and Antonio Senzatela are a part of that group, as are relievers Carlos Estevez, Mychal Givens, and Robert Stephenson. Additionally, Ryan McMahon and Raimel Tapia are up for arbitration as well.
In this article from mid-October, we went through some of the estimated salaries for each of those players. However, much has changed since that article was written. That includes the Rockies parting ways with David Dahl and Tony Wolters, Chi Chi Gonzalez being non-tendered but then signing a minor league contract, and reliever Jairo Diaz avoiding arbitration by signing a one-year, $1.1 million deal.
With Colorado reportedly looking to keep expenses as low as possible thanks to a pandemic-shortened 2020 season with no fans and uncertainty surrounding attendance and the ability to play a full 162-game schedule in 2021, it will be interesting to see how Colorado management can keep salaries as low as they can with some key young pieces in line for raises through arbitration.
Could disagreements be brewing over salaries? Certainly. However, if history is an indicator, the Rockies won’t let it go as far as an official arbitration hearing. When Wolters lost his arbitration hearing last offseason, he was just the fifth member of the Rockies in the franchise’s history to be a part of a hearing. By the way, Colorado has won four of those five hearings, so history is on the front office’s side here as well.
One of the key numbers to watch is what happens with Gray. When non-tender rumors were swirling around Gray in early December, Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich said that he called Gray to assure him he was a part of the team’s plans moving forward. Part of that movement forward will include a raise which could put his annual salary north of $6 million. That would make him the sixth-highest paid member of the team and second-highest-paid pitcher behind fellow starter German Marquez, per Cot’s Contracts.
Another will be what happens with Freeland. Last year, the southpaw avoided arbitration to sign a one-year, $2.875 deal. This year, he could nearly double his salary coming off a rebound season where he lowered his ERA from 6.73 to 4.33 and FIP from 5.99 to 4.65. And don’t forget that those numbers went up to end the season thanks to a final start where he gave up eight hits and six earned runs to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2.1 innings.
We will be watching these eight players this week to see when they have their 2021 contracts and what kind of raises each will receive. Those numbers will give us a better idea of what kind of payroll the Rockies will carry into the season and what room there might be for the Rockies to potentially sign any free agents.