Today marks the beginning of the arbitration process. While teams and arbitration-eligible players can and have negotiated deals, teams and players formally exchange figures today. This occurs in January because usually by this time of the year the free agent market is almost done. Of course that's not the case this year, but the arbitration process will no longer wait.
While Matt Adams, Brandon Moss, Trevor Rosenthal, and Seth Maness were due to exchange figures with the team today, that will no longer be necessary as the team reached agreement with all for. Moss was entering his fourth and final year of arbitration while the other three are first timers.
As you may know, players need to end a season with six or more years of service time in order to qualify for free agency. Most players won't be eligible for arbitration until they accrue three years of service time. However, players with between two but less than three years of service time could also be eligible. In order to do, they must rank in the top 22% of service time in their service time class. The arbitration process calls these players "Super 2" players, and they go through the arbitration process four times instead of three.
That is the case with Brandon Moss, and it will now also be the case for Seth Maness, who was called up early in 2013. Trevor Rosenthal and Matt Adams enter the arbitration process as well with over three years of service time. Both had cups of coffee in 2012 and have stuck on the roster from opening day 2013 to now.
Matt Swartz of MLBTradeRumors.com has developed a very accurate projection system which generates estimates for what each player will in arbitration. Here's how the Cardinals are projected:
Matt Adams (3.033) – $1.5MM
Seth Maness (2.154) – $1.2MM
Brandon Moss (5.160) – $7.9MM
Trevor Rosenthal (3.058) – $6.5MM
As you can see, saves matter a lot in the arbitration. No one could argue the Magical Trevor isn't a better pitcher than Maness, but the arbitration process looks likely to consider Rosenthal more than five times more valuable than the ground-ball specialist. Moss projects to make the most largely because the amount of service time a player has is a large factor. Moss made $1.6M in 2013, his first year of arbitration.
As for the how the players ended up, all we know so far is that Moss and Rosenthal's salaries will be $8.25M and $5.6M respectively, as the deals for Maness and Adams have yet to be announced. So Moss earned a little more than expected and Rosenthal earned nearly a million less than expected. Since future raises will be based on his first arbitration salary, this seems to be a good win for the Cardinals.
While we don't yet know the deals for Adams and Maness, they are reportedly just for a single year. So this year may be bucking the recent trend by the front office to guarantee multiple years at once. Jon Jay, Lance Lynn and Jason Motte have all had deals that did so without the Cardinals getting the benefit of extra years of control. Those deals haven't been disasters as they've only cost the team a small amount of money, but they haven't been good either.
Jason Motte missed all of 2013 and a good chunk of 2014 recovering from Tommy John Surgery. And when he did pitch in 2014 it wasn't up to same standards as he was before, common among players returning from the ever popular surgery. Motte only pitched 25 innings in 2014, so it seems fairly likely that the Cardinals could have simply non-tendered Motte for the 2014 season. At the least Motte would have not been due a raise since he missed the entire previous season.
Jon Jay and Lance Lynn are in similar situations. The team last year guaranteed them salaries for their remaining arbitration years (two for Jay and three for Lynn) that were likely based on what the Cardinals thought was the average outcome, but since both players have succumb to injuries they'll receive more money now than they would have if the Cardinals didn't act in advance. That might not seem like a problem anymore since Jay was traded, but it's likely the Padres would have eaten little more of Jedd Gyorko's contract had they had Jon Jay under salary at a lower price.
Again, these are small costs in today's modern baseball world, and it allows the team to not negotiate with the player each year and avoid arguing about the players' value in arbitration, but nevertheless it seems the Cardinals are moving away from that strategy, and it seems like the right move to me.
For those looking forward, next year Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Kolten Wong, and Kevin Siegrist all enter arbitration, assuming none of these pre-arbitration players sign extensions prior to then.
edit: According Jon Heyman, Adams' deal is for $1.65M, $150,000 more than projected:
matt adams, cards settle at 1.65M— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 15, 2016