Astros Agree with Four Arbitration Eligible Players, not Castro and Gattis
By Eric Huysman
Jason Castro and Evan Gattis are the only Houston Astros without agreed upon contracts
The Houston Astros faced the Friday deadline to sign arbitration-eligible players before they had to file for arbitration. The six players who were eligible were Dallas Keuchel, Evan Gattis, Luis Valbuena, Marwin Gonzalez, Jason Castro, and Josh Fields. Should the Astros have tendered Chris Carter a contract, he would have been among these players trying to set their salary. It’s a weird process, your boss tells you how much they value you, and you respond with how much you think you are worth. If you can’t reach an agreement, you will go into an arbitration hearing in February to have a third-party representative decide the salary.
It’s a part of every baseball player’s MLB career before they get to be a free agent and they get total control on what they should be paid as they decide where to sign. The team, usually, tries to push for the two sides to agree to before going to a hearing because they don’t want to have to tell a player why they don’t think they are worth x dollars. The players look for it to get settled because they don’t want the decision hanging over their head. Both sides typically look to settle, but then you have the “file and go” type of GMs who are not worried about the hearings. Luhnow has tried to shy away from this, as they took a while to reach an agreement last year with Gonzalez.
Let’s take a look at what happened during the 2016 arbitration process, we will compare to projected numbers from MLB Trade Rumors.
MLBTR projected that Valbuena would receive a $5.8 million contract during this process. The Astros and Valbuena settled on a $6.125 million dollar salary for the 2016 season, up from $4.2 million from last season. The third baseman with five years of service time got more than the projected amount ($325K), which shows that he is still part of the present plans with the Astros. The slugger hit .224 with 25 homers in 2015, but he lost some playing time with an extended cold streak and Jed Lowrie returning. He regained his starting position towards the end of the regular season and held on throughout the playoffs.
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MLBTR projected that Fields would make $800K in 2016, which was pretty close to what the Astros and Fields agreed to at $900K. The former first round pick in the 2008 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners. He was drafted in the Rule V draft before the 2013 season by the Astros; he now enters his third year in baseball. Fields is part of the strength of the Astros bullpen; that got even stronger with the Ken Giles addition. This salary represents a nice raise from the $517K he made in 2015.
MLBTR projected that Gonzalez would earn $1.9 million in 2016, which is close to the $2 million dollars he and the Astros settled on. The utility player, who has played every position except for pitcher and catcher, is a valuable piece of the team who went to the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Last season he received a $1.09 million contract after a lengthy delay in reaching an agreement. The two sides agreed to before going to arbitration in 2015 and do the same in 2016. He doesn’t have to worry about competing with Lowrie for playing time anymore.
The player who was projected to earn the largest contract in the process, according to MLBTR, which projected $6.4 million, did, in fact, earn the largest contract. The Astros wanted to be fair to Keuchel, as they hope to extend his contract in the next few years, they will take care of their Cy Young winner. Keuchel and the Astros agreed to a $7.25 million dollar contract, which breaks the record for the largest contract offered to a first-year eligible arbitration pitcher. According to MLBTR, the previous record holders were Dontrelle Willis and David Price at $4.35 million.
This salary is a good sign for fan and Kuechel alike that the Astros will do what it takes to make Keuchel happy. This was a huge raise from his $525K salary last season, but hopefully, it will be the last time the Astros go through this process with him.
MLBTR projected that Gattis would earn a $3.4 million dollar contract for 2016. The two sides have not reached an agreement at the time of writing this article. According to Jon Heyman, “Evan Gattis filed at 3.85M, Astros at 3M.” That may not seem like a lot in decimal form, but that is an extra $850K for a slugger who struggled at the end of the season and the playoffs. The two sides can still reach a deal, but if they can’t, they will go before an arbitrator in February. It sounds like the two sides may be willing to find a middle ground, but Luhnow is ready if it goes to arbitration, it’s part of the process. Once again, Gattis is set up to get a nice raise from his estimated $526K he made last season.
MLBTR projected that Castro would earn $4.6 million in 2016, but the Astros and Castro seem to be far apart despite the difference of $250K. According to Jon Heyman, “Jason Castro filed at $5.25M, Astros at $5M.” According to Evan Drellich, the Astros are willing to go to arbitration with Castro over this difference. While there is a chance that Castro and the Astros could reach a deal, a source told Drellich that he could see this case 100% going to the hearings. This will most likely mark the end of the relationship with Castro and the Astros as he is in the final year of team control. A catching answer better rise in 2016, because it could be Castro’s last with the Astros.
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Hopefully, the Astros and Castro and Gattis can reach an agreement before going to the hearing, the last Astros case that went to arbitration was Hunter Pence in 2011. The Astros lost that case and ended up trading Pence for different reasons, let’s get it done gentlemen.
**Stats and Salary Info from Baseball-Reference**