Don’t expect many surprises before Friday’s 7 p.m. deadline to tender 2018 contracts to salary arbitration-eligible players. The Royals are expected to tender contracts to pitchers Kelvin Herrera, Nathan Karns and Brandon Maurer, the club’s most high-profile players eligible for salary arbitration.
The final arbitration-eligible player is right-handed pitcher Mike Morin, acquired off waivers in September. Royals general manager Dayton Moore said Thursday that the club was still in the process of making tender decisions on all their eligible players.
Players reach salary arbitration after accumulating three years of major-league service time or “super-two” status. Once that happens, clubs can tender those players contracts and head to the arbitration process. Players reach full free agency after six years of service time. In arbitration, the two sides exchange salary figures in January. They can settle at any time before a potential arbitration hearing in February.
Clubs can also opt to “non-tender” an arbitration-eligible player as a move to cut costs or clear space on the 40-man roster. The Royals, however, are likely to tender contracts to Herrera and Maurer, projected to be the most expensive among their four potential arbitration cases.
Herrera, 27, posted a 4.25 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings while struggling in his first season as the team’s primary closer. He made $5.325 million after settling before a potential arbitration hearing last winter and could make close to $8.3 million in arbitration this year, according to projections from MLB Trade Rumors. Yet the Royals continue to see value in his right arm. Herrera has appeared in two All-Star Games and can still dial his fastball up into the upper 90s. He could compete for a spot in the back end of the bullpen while also profiling as a trade candidate this winter or before the deadline next summer.
Maurer, meanwhile, is projected to make $3.8 million in his second year of arbitration after making $1.9 million last season. He was largely ineffective after being acquired from the San Diego Padres before the trade deadline, logging an 8.10 ERA in 26 appearances. Yet his premium stuff remains tantalizing for a team looking for modestly cheap bullpen help. Maurer, 27, is under club control through the 2019 season.
Karns, 30, is expected to compete for a rotation spot after returning from season-ending surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome. Acquired for outfielder Jarrod Dyson before last season, Karns, 30, is reaching arbitration for the first time and is projected to make $1.4 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors. Morin, 26, is a Kansas City-area native who was claimed off waivers in September from the Los Angeles Angels. He surrendered five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings across six appearances. He is slated to make $700,000 in arbitration.