Arbitration projections predict raises for Blue Jays’ Stroman, Pillar

Toronto Blue Jays centre fielder Kevin Pillar and pitcher Marcus Stroman. (Aaron Lynett/CP)

The Blue Jays spend tens of millions in arbitration just about every year as their players approach free agency. Thanks to the projections by Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors, we now have a more precise idea of what the Blue Jays’ 2019 class will cost.

At some point before the December tender deadline, Blue Jays decision makers will have to determine whether to offer eligible players 2019 contracts through the arbitration process, or cut them loose into free agency with a non-tender. In most instances the Blue Jays will tender players contracts, but that’s not necessarily the case for everyone.

Here’s an early look at what those MLBTR projections tell us about the club’s off-season plans…

Marcus Stroman, SP

2018 salary: $6.5 million
Projected 2019 salary: $7.2 million
This one’s an easy call. Even though he had a disappointing season, Stroman has a history of durability and effectiveness. The Blue Jays will tender him a contract.

Ken Giles, RP

2018 salary: $4.6 million
Projected 2019 salary: $6.6 million
There’s lots of bounce-back potential from Giles, who combines one of the hardest fastballs in the league with the ability to avoid walks. Again, he’s an easy tender.

Yangervis Solarte, IF

2018 salary: $4.125 million
Projected 2019 salary: $5.9 million
The Blue Jays also hold a $5.5 million club option for Solarte, who’s under team control through 2020. From the outside looking in, that price looks too steep for what he offers. The switch-hitter was a below-average defender and baserunner in 2018, when he posted a .655 OPS. On a team with plenty of infield options, he’s not needed.

Kevin Pillar, CF

2018 salary: $3.25 million
Projected 2019 salary: $5.3 million
There weren’t quite as many show-stopping catches from Pillar, and his on-base percentage fell below .300. He’s now approaching 30 years old, an age where defensive skills are typically in decline.

Even so, Pillar’s still a good major-league player. Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs agree that he generated two-plus wins above replacement last year, and his wRC+ of 89 wasn’t so far from the MLB average for centre-fielders (96). In that context, $5.3 million seems reasonable. Even if you’d rather open up playing time for younger players in Toronto, Pillar could have trade value at this price.

Randal Grichuk, RF

2018 salary: $2.6 million
Projected 2019 salary: $4.8 million
Grichuk rebounded from a slow start to make this one an easy call. The Blue Jays will tender him a contract.

Aaron Sanchez, SP

2018 salary: $2.7 million
Projected 2019 salary: $3.8 million
It was another frustrating season for Sanchez, but this is still an easy ‘yes’ considering his ability.

Devon Travis, 2B

2018 salary: $1.45 million
Projected 2019 salary: $2.4 million
For years, Travis has been the Blue Jays’ preferred option at second base when healthy, but the club’s infield mix has become increasingly crowded lately. Eventually, that will complicate decisions up the middle. In the meantime, it’d be tough to cut loose a 27-year-old infielder with a lifetime .751 OPS.

Jake Petricka, RP

2018 salary: $1.3 million
Projected 2019 salary: $1.7 million
Petricka should be considered a non-tender candidate. To his credit he pitched in 41 games, yet his numbers – 4.53 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 – weren’t so impressive that he has earned himself any guarantees (for context, MLB relievers averaged a 4.09 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9).

Ryan Tepera, RP

2018 salary: $575,000
Projected 2019 salary: $1.7 million
Tepera has become a mainstay in the Blue Jays’ bullpen with consecutive productive years. Retaining him’s an easy call.

Brandon Drury, IF

2018 salary: $622,000
Projected 2019 salary: $1.4 million
A fractured hand sidelined Drury for the final two months of the season, so he appeared in just 26 games in 2018. That will limit his arbitration earnings despite solid seasons with Arizona in 2016 and 2017. Given the low price tag, there’s no harm in seeing what the 26-year-old can do when healthy.

Joe Biagini, RP

2018 salary: $545,000
Projected 2019 salary: $1.0 million
Biagini was all too hittable in 2018, when he posted a 6.00 ERA and allowed 96 hits in 72 innings. That said, the Blue Jays are optimistic that he’ll do better once he’s exclusively pitching in relief.

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