Remember when Mike Trout was the best player in baseball in 2012 and then made $510,000 in 2013? Quite the steal for the Angels. Now two of the game’s best young arms disagree with the pre-arbitration contracts they have been given going into the 2016 season. Gerrit Cole has voiced his displeasure and Jacob DeGrom has straight up refused to sign his contract.
I won’t go into the gory details of pre-arbitration. MLB Trade Rumors gives a good breakdown here if you’re interested, but it’s basically a process in which the teams assign a value and contract to players that haven’t met their service requirements (three years) to qualify for arbitration. This can be quite frustrating to players like DeGrom and Cole who are two of the best pitchers in the game yet will be making just a bit over the league minimum this year. What’s comical about this whole situation is that they really can’t do shit about it.
So DeGrom saying he’s not signing the contract is literally just that. The Mets are still going to give him the amount of money they want to and next year he’ll probably sign a monster deal. Some teams give a little more cash in these pre-arb years as a show of good faith…Mike Trout earned a $1mm contract the year after he made half of that.
However, is there a case to be made for pitchers being treated differently? DeGrom has already had his Tommy John surgery but Cole hasn’t. TJ surgery seems to have become just something that every pitcher goes through nowadays. What if his Tommy John season is this season? There goes a couple mil from that long-term contract. So the argument for cashing in as soon as possible certainly deserves to be made.
We have to live with the current format now because that’s what the MLB and the MLBPA agreed upon. That fact alone actually makes Cole and DeGrom look a little silly because their Player’s Association actually agreed to these terms. I assume when the next CBA takes place this will be a huge topic of discussion, and I won’t even begin to pretend to understand what those conversations look like. I do know that the game’s stars are younger than ever, and the MLB needs a better way to compensate its most valuable assets.