MLB Trade Rumors have published their annual estimates for the salaries that the arbitration-eligible players are likely to receive in 2023.
This is always an interesting list, but it’s all the more so for the A’s this off-season as our roster is devoid of any guaranteed contracts.
We have a group of pre-arbitration players, plus six confirmed arbitration players and two more (A.J. Puk and Cole Irvin) who may be added to the list once the qualification point for Super Two players is finalised (a certain number of the best performing players become eligible for arbitration after two seasons rather than the standard three) .
Here are the six currently-confirmed arbitration eligible players and what the projection system has produced as a potential 2023 salary for each of them.
Tony Kemp (5.098): $3.9MM
We all love TK; the energy he brings and everything he stands for fits perfectly with Oakland. That doesn’t change the fact that he had some struggles at the plate in 2022 (yes, I know that can be said for virtually A’s hitter) and his value is more as a 25th/26th roster guy who can fill in at multiple positions than as a regular starting player.
Kemp made $2.25M in 2022 and I can’t help but feel that if signing him will take close to $4M then the A’s may not tender him a contract. To be honest, I was surprised that the projection system gave him such a big raise as I was looking at him being more in the $3.25M-$3.5M range. If he’s prepared to accept that level of contract, on the basis of staying somewhere he knows and where he’ll get plenty of playing time ahead of becoming a free agent at the end of the 2023 season, then a deal might still be possible.
Deolis Guerra: $900K
Not much to be said here, other than Guerra will be making his way back from Tommy John surgery and there’s every chance he won’t be tendered a contract.
Austin Pruitt: $1.2MM
Pruitt did okay for us out of the bullpen this season, pitching in 39 games. He gave up 11 home runs, which hurt, and he’s not a strike-out pitcher, but he does a good job in limiting free passes and can do a steady enough job in 6th-7th inning situations. It doesn’t seem overly likely we’ll spend a 7 figure sum on him, though.
Ramón Laureano: $3.6MM
2023 is going to be a big season for Ramón. We hoped that he would come back in a big way in 2022 once he finished up his suspension, but things didn’t quite turn out like that and his season was ended early by a hamstring injury.
Selfishly, the difficulties he faced in 2022 increase the chance that he will stay with the team heading into 2023 and hopefully we will see the old Ramón firing on all cylinders once again (albeit, that likely meaning he gets traded at the deadline).
Sean Murphy (3.029): $3.5MM
Comfortably our best player in 2022, Murph is a steal at a salary of $3.5M; however, unfortunately that factors into him being comfortably our most valuable trade asset this off-season.
Any team that is seeking an upgrade at catcher will be a potential trade match, with the most obvious fit being the Cleveland Guardians. They boast a strong farm system to trade from, have a need at the position and Murphy’s contract status (three years of arbitration-eligibility left) puts him in an affordable bracket for the cost-conscious team.
Paul Blackburn (3.018): $1.9MM
Paulie All-Star was having a break-out season until he ran into some performance struggles in the second-half and then ultimately was shut down for the season in early August with an injury to his pitching hand. There was talk that he may need to undergo surgery, although that doesn’t seem to have been needed to this point.
In any case, that puts some uncertainty against him that will affect his trade value this off-season, so there’s good reason to expect him to be back with the A’s in 2023.
All Comes Back to the Budget
As always, the options available to the A’s Front Office will be dictated by the budget constraints John Fisher places them under.
It shouldn’t be possible for Fisher to set such a ridiculously low payroll again without penalty ($47.7M 26-man Opening Day, just under $61M 40-man for Competitive Balance Tax purposes); however this is a system with little to prevent him from doing so.
It’s best not to underestimate how cheap a cheap Billionaire can be.