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Yankees Avoid Arbitration with All Nine Eligible Players

The Yankees settled on one-year deals this past Friday with Aaron Judge, James Paxton, Gary Sanchez, Gio Urshela, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Jordan Montgomery, and Luis Cessa to avoid arbitration. Arbitration is one of the most crucial periods in a player’s career. Essentially, when a player has accumulated between three to five years on a Major League roster, they become arbitration-eligible players (except for Super Two players, which according to’s glossary “…must rank in the top 22 percent, in terms of service time, among those who have amassed between two and three years in the Majors….” and thus go through an additional year of arbitration). The team and the player both file a contract for the player’s earning the following season. If the team and the player are unable to settle on a deal, they go to an arbitration hearing, which decides how much a player is owned the following year. 

That being said, the tension is high between the team and the player; the team seeks young, affordable talent, while the player wants to earn as much as possible. Many star players end up going through this process. This year, players such as Josh Hader, George Springer, Trevor Story, and J.T. Realmuto are some of the big names who will go through an arbitration hearing. Also, players tend to have a significant raise each year during their arbitration years, and their raise (after the first arbitration year) is dependent on how much they earned the previous year. On the other hand, first-time arbitration-eligible players can receive a seismic increase from their pre-arbitration years (less than three years of MLB service time), where they receive close to the league minimum ($563,500 in 2020). 

The Yankees have seven players that are eligible for arbitration for the first time in their Major League career. Although these seven players all had a nice increase in their salary, Aaron Judge benefited the most from arbitration. In 2020, Judge will make $8.5 million, a rather large jump from what he made in 2019 ($684,300). Despite spending a lot of time on the I.L. thanks to an Oblique Strain, Judge still had quite the season. In 102 games, Judge had 27 HRs, a .272/.381/.540 slash line, .267 ISO, 141 wRC+, 19 DRS, 12.4 UZR, and 4.6 fWAR. His 2019 statistics, as well as his being one of MLB’s most elite players when healthy made Judge one of the highest-paid first time eligible players in MLB’s history. 

Gary Sanchez’s 2019 season also paid off in arbitration. His pay increased from $669,800 to $5 million. In 106 games, Sanchez had 34 HRs, a .232/.316/.525 slash line, .293 ISO, 116 wRC+, -2 DRS, -6.8 FRM, 23.4 CS%, and 2.3 fWAR. Sanchez is one of the best catchers in the Majors and should keep receiving a big payday throughout his arbitration years. 

Gio Urshela also cashed out on a career year. His salary jumped from $550,000 to $2.475 million. In 132 games, Urshela had 21 HRs, .314/.355/.534, .219 ISO, 132 wRC+, -4 DRS, -2.5 UZR, and 3.1 fWAR. If Urshela continues to rake as he did in 2019, Urshela will continue to have a massive increase in his contract. 

Additionally, Chad Green also became arbitration-eligible in 2020. An up-and-down 2019 season prevented Green from earning more in his first year of arbitration. In 69.0 IP, Green had a 4.17 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 12.78 K/9, 1.30 HR/9, 1.6 fWAR. Green’s remarkable track record and his respectable season still helped more than doubled his salary from 2019 ($589,650 to $1.275 million). 

Luis Cessa, who was traded along with Chad Green for Justin Wilson back in 2015, was also in his first year of arbitration. Cessa had his best season in 2019 and was thus used a lot more frequently in 2019. In 81.0 IP, Cessa had a 4.11 ERA, 4.67 FIP, 8.33 K/9, 1.56 HR/9, 0.1 fWAR. As expected, his career year net him a respectable increase in salary ($578,975 to $895,000). 

Another reliever, Jonathan Holder, also went through arbitration for the first time. Although Holder pitched a career-high 41.1 IP, he had a very rough 2019 season; Holder had a 6.31 ERA, 4.45 FIP, 10.02 K/9, 1.74 HR/9, and 0.4 fWAR. As a result, Holder did not receive as high of a pay increase ($580,300 to $750,000). 

The last first-time eligible player was Jordan Montgomery. Montgomery had an excellent 2017 season (155.1 IP, 3.88 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 8.34 K/9, 1.22 HR/9, 2.6 fWAR), but has since thrown just 31.1 IP over the last two years as he was recovering from Tommy John Surgery. Nonetheless, Montgomery also received a nice pay increase for the 2020 season, despite his time on the I.L. ($596,600 to $805,000).

The Yankees also had two players that have been through the arbitration process for several years. In James Paxton’s final year of arbitration, he will make $12.5 million, an expected jump from his 2019 salary ($8.575 million) after a respectable 2019 season (15-6, 150.2 IP, 3.82 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 11.11 K/9, 3.29 BB/9, 3.5 fWAR). 

Tommy Kahnle also received a respectable contract in his final year of arbitration after a bounce-back 2019 campaign (61.1 IP, 3.67 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 12.91 K/9, 2.91 BB/9, 1.1 fWAR). Thus, Kahnle nearly doubled his salary for the 2020 season ($1.3875 million to $2.65 million).

Thanks to another successful arbitration period, the Yankees will not have to undergo an arbitration hearing for the third year in a row.


HR: Home Run

AVG(BA)/OBP/SLG (slash line): An important measurement of a player’s ability to hit. Batting average is derived by the formula (Hits/At Bats), On Base Percentage is determined by the formula ((Hits+Walks+Hit By Pitches)/Plate Appearances), and Slugging Percentage can be found by the formula ((Singles+Doubles*2+Triples*3+Home Runs*4)/At Bats). MLB average: .252/.323/.435.

ISO: Isolated Power. A way to show a player’s power based on all extra-base hits. It is essentially a truer slugging percentage. (Doubles+Triples*2+Home Runs*3)/At Bats. MLB average: .183 ISO. 

wRC+: Weighted runs created plus. A stat that quantifies total offensive value and factors in the different dimensions of each ballpark. A wRC+ of 100 is replacement level, and anything above that is X% above league average (i.e. a wRC+ of 101 is 1% above league average offensively). 

DRS and UZR: Defensive statistics where a net total of 0 means the player is average defensively, above 0 means the player is above average defensively, and below 0 means the player is below average defensively.

FRM: A defense measurements for catchers that show their framing ability (getting called strikes frequently and framing balls into strikes) 0 is average, greater than 0 is above average, and less than zero is below average.

CS%: The percentage of runners thrown out trying to steal a base. MLB average: 27.50 CS%.

W-L: The Win-Loss record of a pitcher. For example, a 1-1 record means a pitcher has one win and one loss.

IP: Innings Pitched.

ERA: Earned Run Average. The average amount of earned runs allowed in a nine-inning game. MLB average: 4.49 ERA.

FIP: Essentially an ERA that’s more focused on what the pitcher can control without solely relying on his defense (strikeouts, walks, homers, hit batters). MLB Average: 4.20 FIP.

BB/9: Average number of walks around in a nine-inning game. MLB average: 2.92 BB/9

K/9: Average number of strikeouts in a nine-inning game. MLB average: 7.92 K/9.

HR/9: Average number of home runs in a nine-inning game. MLB average: 1.26 HR/9.

fWAR: Wins Above Replacement from Fangraphs. For example, If a player has 0.1 fWAR they are worth 0.1 wins more than a replacement-level player (0.0 fWAR). 


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