Donaldson, Bryant set records ahead of arbitration swap

  • Toronto’s Josh Donaldson hits a three-run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during a ballgame last season. AP file

  • FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2017, file photo, Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant hits an RBI-double against the Milwaukee Brewers during the fourth inning of an baseball game in Milwaukee. The hot corner figures to be smoking Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, when players and team swap proposed salaries in arbitration. Toronto's Josh Donaldson, Baltimore's Manny Machado, Washington's Anthony Rendon and Bryant were among the more than 170 players headed to the exchange. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck, File) Darren Hauck

  • FILE - In this Sept. 30, 2017, file photo, Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado fields a ground ball by Tampa Bay Rays' Wilson Ramos during the first inning of a baseball game in St. Petersburg, Fla. The hot corner figures to be smoking Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, when players and team swap proposed salaries in arbitration. Toronto's Josh Donaldson, Washington's Anthony Rendon, Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant and Machado were among the more than 170 players headed to the exchange. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File) Chris O'Meara

  • FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2017, file photo, Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel walks back to the dugout after the third inning of Game 5 of the baseball team's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees in New York. Keuchel agreed to a 13.2 million, one-year contract after helping lead Houston to its first World Series title. Pitchers Lance McCullers Jr. and Brad Peacock and catcher Evan Gattis also reached one-year deals Friday, Jan. 12, when players and teams were set to swap proposed salaries in arbitration. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File) Kathy Willens

Associated Press
Saturday, January 13, 2018

NEW YORK – Third basemen Josh Donaldson and Kris Bryant set records Friday when they were among 145 players who agreed to one-year contracts rather than swap proposed salaries in arbitration with their teams.

Donaldson and Toronto agreed at $23 million, the largest one-year deal for an arbitration-eligible player. The 32-year-old, a three-time All-Star, topped the $21,625,000, one-year deal covering 2018 agreed to last May by outfielder Bryce Harper and Washington.

Donaldson, the 2015 AL MVP, got a $6 million raise after rebounding from an injury-slowed 2016 to hit .270 last season with 33 homers and 78 RBI in 113 games. The sure-handed infielder missed time from April 14 through May 25 with a calf injury, which also hampered him during spring training.

Bryant settled with the Chicago Cubs at $10.85 million, the most for a player eligible for arbitration for the first time. The previous mark was held by Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard, who was awarded $10 million by a three-person panel in 2008.

“Arbitration is a fairly rote exercise where you put up your numbers, you accumulate your rewards, then you compare them to guys who have done similar things in the past,” Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said. “In his case, you know you don’t usually go a decade back for a comp, but Ryan Howard having won the MVP and obviously there’s been some inflation since then. It took care of itself. He earned it. He’s going to set a lot of records in his day and I get more excited about the ones on the field, but this is a well-deserved and appropriate salary.”

Bryant hit .295 with 29 home runs and 73 RBI last year, when he made $1.05 million. The previous season, he earned National League MVP honors when he hit .292 with 39 homers and 102 RBI. The Cubs won the World Series that year for the first time since 1908.

Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado agreed at $16 million, Colorado outfielder Charlie Blackmon at $14 million, Houston pitcher Dallas Keuchel at $13.2 million and injured Orioles closer Zach Britton at $12 million. The quartet, like Donaldson, can become free agents after the season. Britton ruptured his right Achilles tendon in offseason training and figures to have a delayed start to his season.

Just 27 players who swapped figures remain on track for hearings, which will be held from Jan. 29-Feb. 16 in Phoenix.

Mookie Betts and Boston had the biggest gap at $3 million, with the outfielder asking for $10.5 million and the Red Sox offering $7.5 million. Outfielder George Springer and World Series champion Houston had the second-biggest difference ($10.5 million vs. $8.5 million) and second baseman Jonathan Schoop and Baltimore the third ($9 million vs. $7.5 million).

A trio of right-handed pitchers had the smallest difference: Mike Foltynewicz and Atlanta ($2.3 million vs. $2.2 million), Dan Straily and Miami ($3.55 million vs. $3,375,000), and Shelby Miller and Arizona ($4.9 million vs. $4.7 million).

Teams won eight of 15 decisions last winter, the most hearings since clubs went 10-6 in 2004. Several clubs refused to negotiate after the exchange of proposed arbitration salaries, a so-called “file and trial” strategy.

Teams have a 302-224 edge since arbitration started in 1974.