While we wait for the free agent dominos to start falling, the other subplot to follow around the league is arbitration. This coming Friday (January 12) marks the deadline for teams and players to exchange figures in advance of a potential trial. Boston is unusually busy in this respect, as they headed into the offseason with 13 arbitration-eligible players. Now, that number is down to ten, with Carson Smith being the latest player to avoid a trial with an agreement. The team will pay the right-handed reliever $850,000 in 2018.
Source: Carson Smith, Red Sox agree to $850,000 salary for 2018, avoiding arbitration.— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) January 8, 2018
That salary comes in a full $250,000 below MLB Trade Rumor’s projection, which is the gold standard in terms of arbitration projections. That makes three Red Sox players locked up, all of whom have come in under MLBTR’s projected salary. Steven Wright, who agreed to terms this past weekend, came in $100,000 under his projection. Meanwhile, Tyler Thornburg came in $50,000 under. These are relative pennies for a major-league team, of course, but with so many arbitration-eligible players on the roster for the Red Sox these small savings can add up.
One common misconception that comes up often this time of year is around the usage of “non-guaranteed contract” on these deals. While it is technically true, essentially all of these players are basically guaranteed to make a major-league roster. If they weren’t, they would have likely been non-tendered before this process could play out. Smith, specifically, figures to play a big role in the Red Sox bullpen in his first full season since coming back from Tommy John surgery. Boston is in search of a setup man to throw in front of Craig Kimbrel and potentially take over as closer in 2019. Smith surely is the in-house favorite to do both of those things. We’ll need to wait to know whether or not that will happen, of course, but for now we know he won’t be going to an arbitration trial this year.