Breaking Down Three Arbitration Cases

Focusing on Adolis García, Luis Arraez, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

The salary arbitration process is one of the most intriguing, and oftentimes overlooked, events of the offseason. The subjectivity of the process can cause divisions between players and their teams, and each year there seems to be a noticeable case or two that boils over into public frustration, such as Corbin Burnes’s frustrations with the Milwaukee Brewers last offseason. In this article, I will be looking at three arbitration cases that are scheduled to be decided this month, and simulate arguments that both the teams and players will make to create a better forecast of how these arbitration cases will be resolved.

First, a quick primer on how the arbitration process works. Major League Baseball players that have between three and six years of service time, or have two years of service time and are designated as “Super Two”, are eligible for arbitration if they are unable to reach a contract agreement with their respective team before arbitration hearings begin at the end of the offseason. Both sides present to the arbitration panel a salary offer for the upcoming season, and the panel chooses which proposal will become the player’s salary.

In this article, I will be simulating the arbitration cases of the following three players: Adolis García, Luis Arraez, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to capture a better understanding of the arguments each player and their respective teams made or will make during their arbitration hearing. In the case of García, this simulation will provide us with a better understanding of why both sides settled before heading to arbitration. Each player will be compared to two similar arbitration cases that have taken place in recent years, one argued from the team’s perspective and another from the player’s perspective. The opposing side will receive a rebuttal for each comparison.

Wearable technology and Statcast data are not permissible statistics to be used in an arbitration hearing, so expected stats (such as xwOBA, xSLG, etc.) and metrics such as Hard Hit% and Barrel% can not be used. Arbitration panels tend to lean on more traditional statistics (such as batting average, saves, etc.) rather than advanced statistics, which creates an interesting discrepancy between the way players are valued by the panel vs. by their respective teams and the baseball industry at large. Given these constraints, it should be noted that I will be making arguments that align with statistics that resonate in importance with the panel and not statistics I necessarily use for my everyday analysis. Onto the simulations!


Adolis García


Player sought a $6,900,000 salary for next season, team countered with $5,000,000. García and the Rangers settled on a contract that could max out at $20,250,000 over the next two seasons.

Comparison #1: 2018 Tommy Pham

Texas would argue that this player comparison is near-perfect since Tommy Pham was entering his first year of arbitration eligibility after the 2018 season, just like Adolis García. While it cannot be disputed that García displayed more power than Pham, hitting 39 home runs and 107 runs batted in for the Rangers last season, Pham posted a much higher batting average and on-base percentage. Pham stole more bases in 2018 than García did last season, an impressive feat given how much the stolen base environment has changed over the past few seasons. A constant decline in stolen bases by García since 2021 could be a sign that he is past his peak and may enter into a period of decline soon.

García’s higher runs batted in total could also be attributed to the fact he was hitting in a star-studded Rangers lineup in 2023, compared to the Rays lineup that Pham was a part of at the end of 2018. In addition, Pham produced 0.9 fWAR up to this point in his career than García has. Should García receive a raise that is 57.4% higher than Pham’s if he has produced a lower career fWAR in his first three seasons?

García’s rebuttal would likely revolve around his power production, durability, and team impact. First, García was more durable in the first three seasons of his major league career than Pham was. García has played in at least 149 games in each season since 2021, while Pham never surpassed 137 games played in his first three seasons. García’s ability to hit for power should not be discounted, as more home runs equal more run production and García hit for a higher slugging percentage than Pham.

Aging concerns about García’s declining speed are overblown, and García has improved his strikeout and walk rates over his first three full seasons. García was also named to the American League All-Star team in 2023, while Pham has not played in an All-Star Game. Lastly, García’s impact on the Texas Rangers can not be understated, as he played a major role in the team’s postseason run, culminating in being named the 2023 ALCS MVP.

Comparison #2: 2016 Khris Davis


Luis Arraez


Player is seeking a $12,000,000 salary for next season, team countered with $10,600,000. Player earned a $6,100,000 salary in 2023.

Comparison #1: 2017 Avisaíl García

Miami would argue that Avisaíl García’s 2017 season is a good comparison for Luis Arraez’s 2023 season since both players were heading to arbitration as All-Stars in their age-26 season. While Arraez produced more hits and had a higher batting average, García had a higher slugging percentage, hit more home runs, and drove in more runs in his age-26 season than Arraez did. Arraez had an excellent season in terms of accumulating hits, but with a higher slugging percentage and more runs batted in, García was more effective at producing runs with his level of contact.

Are .024 more points of batting average, eight fewer home runs, and 11 fewer runs batted in worth a raise that is $2,200,000 greater than the one García was awarded? Sure, a positional adjustment should be accounted for, as Arraez plays second base and García played predominantly right field in 2017, but both players produced roughly the same amount of defensive runs saved. Adjusting for defense, García produced a higher fWAR in 2017 (4.7) than Arraez did in 2023 (3.4). For these reasons, Miami believes that a $800,000 increase over the raise García received after the 2017 season is justified for Arraez.

Arraez’s rebuttal would likely revolve around the team impact he had on the Marlins this year, and his outlier ability to make contact. Arraez had a much better batting average than García did in his age-26 season, and the last qualified hitter to hit for a batting average higher than .354 (excluding the 2020 season) was Josh Hamilton in 2010. Being able to make such frequent contact and hit for a high batting average is an outlier trait in today’s game, and should be considered to be a valuable skill.

Arraez was also a major factor in the Marlins’ turnaround this past season, with Miami improving from 69 wins in 2022 to 84 wins in 2023. With García, the White Sox lost 95 games in 2017. In addition, more value should be placed on Arraez’s defensive ability, as playing second base should be considered more challenging than playing right field. Given the demonstrable value that he has shown on the field, Arraez believes that a $2,200,000 increase over the raise García received is appropriate.

Comparison #2: 2022 Luis Arraez

Since Arraez went to arbitration after last season, his team would likely argue that the best evaluation method would be to compare his 2023 performance to his 2022 performance. Arraez improved in nearly all offensive categories from 2022, seeing an increase in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, and runs batted in. Particularly interesting is Arraez’s increase in slugging from 2022, and his offensive value would only increase if this trend can carry over into 2024.

The 20 more runs batted in that Arraez produced in 2023 are also of note, as this indicates that he was more clutch in 2023 and was able to better translate his hit tool into run production. Arraez also appeared in back-to-back All-Star games in 2022 and 2023, displaying how fans, coaches, and managers around the league value his production. Arraez was an integral piece to the Marlins’ success in 2023, as the team won 15 more games than 2022 and made their first postseason appearance in a 162-game season since 2003. All of these factors combined make a $2,000,000 increase from Arraez’s raise last season well deserved.

Miami’s rebuttal would likely revolve around the random variance surrounding batting average, as well as questions surrounding Arraez’s overall impact on the Marlins’ success. First, a decent amount of a player’s batting average can be attributed to random variance (a.k.a. “batted ball luck”). Sure, Arraez does have an elite ability to put the ball in play which will inherently lead to a higher batting average, but is a .362 batting average on balls in play sustainable over the long term? History suggests that it is likely not.

While Arraez did produce more runs batted in in 2023, the idea that he was more productive with his contact can be debated. Arraez hit more doubles in 2022 (31) than in 2023 (30), and he also grounded into a lot more double plays in 2023 (18) than in 2022 (6). Arraez’s defensive ability also declined, saving 3 fewer runs by a measure of defensive runs saved in 2023. It cannot be denied that the Marlins won more games in 2023 than in 2022, but the Minnesota Twins also improved their win-loss record by 9 games in 2023, casting some doubt over the influence that Arraez placed on Miami’s overall success. Given these factors, Miami believes it is more reasonable for Arraez to see a $500,000 increase over the raise he received last season.


Vladimir Guerrero Jr.


Player sought a $19,900,000 salary for next season, team countered with $18,050,000. Guerrero Jr. won the case and will be awarded a $19,900,000 salary for 2024.

Comparison #1: 2017 Justin Bour

Toronto would argue that Justin Bour’s 2017 season is a good comparison to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 2023 season due to both players being first basemen and displaying similarities in their level of offensive production. In 2017, Bour had a higher batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage than Guerrero Jr., and nearly hit as many home runs and drove in as many runs in 253 fewer plate appearances.

Both players displayed negative defensive value at first base by measure of defensive runs saved, but Bour was a slightly better defender with -2 DRS as opposed to Guerrero Jr.’s -6 DRS. Bour also accumulated a higher fWAR in 2017 (2.3) than Guerrero Jr. (1.0) despite playing in only 108 games. For these reasons, it is appropriate for Guerrero Jr. to receive a $700,000 increase over the raise that Bour received after the 2017 season.

Guerrero Jr.’s rebuttal would likely revolve around the age difference between the two players as well as the accolades Guerrero Jr. has accumulated throughout his career. First, Guerrero Jr. was an All-Star in 2023 and has been an All-Star for the past three seasons while Bour never made an All-Star Game appearance in his entire career. Guerrero Jr. finished second place in the 2021 AL MVP voting while Bour never received a MVP vote in his career.

Bour experienced frequent injuries throughout his career, as evidenced by playing in only 108 games in 2017, while Guerrero Jr. has played in at least 156 games in each of the past three seasons. In addition, Guerrero Jr. is currently four years younger than Bour was during the 2017 season. Given these factors, awarding Guerrero Jr. a $2,552,500 increase over the raise that Bour received after the 2017 season is more than satisfactory.

Comparison #2: 2017 Mookie Betts

Guerrero Jr.’s team would argue that Mookie Betts’s 2017 season is an excellent comparison given both players have nearly identical levels of offensive production. Both players hit for the same batting average, and nearly the same on-base percentage, while Betts has a slight advantage when it comes to slugging percentage. Guerrero Jr. displayed more power in his age-24 season, while Betts did drive in nine more runs. Guerrero Jr.’s team has to tip their hat that Betts has an advantage when it comes to athletics, with Betts stealing 26 bases and producing 30 defensive runs saved in the outfield, however, offense production is more valuable than defensive production and this should be taken into account when determining Guerrero Jr.’s raise.

In terms of accolades, both players had a top-two finish in AL MVP voting by their age-24 season, and Guerrero Jr. has appeared in more All-Star Games (three) than Betts did at this age (two). For these reasons, awarding a raise that is $4,150,000 lower than the one that Betts received is more than enough of an adjustment for the differences in athleticism and positional value.

Toronto’s rebuttal would likely revolve around the different positions these two players play, as well as the differences in their athleticism. While it is true that plus offensive production is more valuable than plus defensive production, the defensive value that Betts provided to the Boston Red Sox in 2017 should not be simply brushed aside. In addition, while Guerrero Jr. has nowhere lower to go on the defensive spectrum besides designated hitter, Betts has more flexibility to move to different positions before his defensive value is eliminated.

Despite both players being the same age, Betts was entering his first year of arbitration after the 2017 season, unlike Guerrero Jr. who is currently entering his second year of arbitration. This is significant because hitters usually receive larger raises during their first time through the arbitration process, especially when they are 23-year-old All-Stars like Betts. Betts was also on the “up-swing” of his career in 2017, while Guerrero Jr. has seen his power output steadily decline since 2021. Given these factors, awarding Guerrero Jr. a $3,550,000 raise is well-justified.


Photos courtesy of Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Aaron Polcare

Adam Salorio

Adam Salorio is a Going Deep Writer at Pitcher List, and a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. When he's not talking about or researching baseball, you can probably catch him at a Bruce Springsteen concert.

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