WASHINGTON — Anthony Rendon was one of the Washington Nationals’ best players last season and he will be paid closer to that reality in 2018.
The arbitration process is over for the Nats, with Rendon, Michael A. Taylor and Tanner Roark each agreed to figures with the team that allows them to avoid arbitration hearings.
Here are the players, totals, and arguments that were likely central to the process:
Anthony Rendon: $5.8 million → $12.3 million
Even on a team with Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, Rendon earned his spotlight last season, finishing with his first .300/.400/.500 season, adding 100 RBI and 25 home runs. While he did not lead the league in any offensive category, he was top-10 in many and earned 141 voting points for NL MVP (sixth). Unlike in 2014, when he finished fifth in MVP voting, Rendon showed that he can consistently produce runs as well as score them. By more than doubling his 2017 salary, Rendon takes one of the biggest percentage jumps in salary this season. His $12.3 million salary was the sixth-highest awarded through arbitration yet this year. Rendon is under contract for the 2018 season, but talks could commence at any time to sign him to a longer-term deal.
Tanner Roark: $4.3 million → $6.475 million
Roark’s ERA jumped nearly two full runs over 2016, perhaps a product of starting the season competing in the World Baseball Classic before rejoining the team in Spring Training. His 13 wins and 181.1 innings were each the third highest marks of his career, but his WHIP (1.335) and walks per nine innings (3.2) were the worst marks of his career. After a misfired announcement to start Roark over Strasburg in Game 4 of the NLDS, manager Dusty Baker reversed course and didn’t use Roark in the playoffs at all last season. For now, he is under contract for the 2018 season, but this seems like another knock against Roark signing a long-term deal in D.C.
Michael A. Taylor: $557,900 → $2.525 million
Taylor was not expected to be an impact player for the Nats in 2017, losing the centerfield job to Adam Eaton and heading to the minor leagues. After the team had no other choice but to give him the chance, he got the call and played sensationally. For his first six weeks on the job, he led MLB in extra-base hits, showing that he could both set the table and produce at he Major League level. He finished with a batting line of .271/.320/.486. This is approximately 40 points higher than his 2016 numbers, and he was a Golden Glove finalist in centerfield. With Eaton on the mend, the Nats look to slot one of them to center and stash the other in left field to replace Jayson Werth.
This was a small but mighty arbitration class for the Nationals and an offseason task that they are certainly happy to put behind them.
Arbitration remains the most awkward part of MLB paperwork, as young players and agents file for a raise, while teams file a lower number to keep salary down.
At best, the two sides agree on a number, as they did in each of these three cases. Any other scenario takes the two sides to a binding arbitration session, where a player states his case for a raise and a team downplays his impact.
Of course, regardless of which side wins, the team then has to turn around and talk about how important a player is to the team. By avoiding this process, the team can avoid laying bare any frustrations that may be boiling below the surface.
Best to save that for later and move on to baseball.