UPDATE: The Brewers and Will Smith agreed to a one year, $1.475 million deal Friday morning, according to Jeff Passan.
Another day, another off-season milestone as we are officially five weeks from the Brewers pitcher and catchers reporting to Spring Training. Today marks the next step in the salary arbitration process, as teams and players that are unable to strike deals will exchange figures for their salaries next season.
Before we dive in, perhaps a quick overview of the arbitration process for those who aren't familiar is in order. In general during their first three years, players' salaries are set by the team, and players have to just take what their given -- generally, the league minimum. Exceptions exist for "Super Two" players, which I'll let FanGraphs explain if you're interested -- Will Smith is a Super Two player this year. Once players have accrued three years of service time or qualify for Super Two status, they are eligible for arbitration: while they remain under team control through their sixth year, they are now able to negotiate contracts that are comparable to other players with similar stats and service time.
Often, teams and players will work out one-year deals each season, but if they don't do so before the arbitration deadline, which is today, both sides will submit salaries that they believe fair. If the two sides are still unable to reach a compromise, then they'll go to an arbitration hearing, at which both sides will defend the figure they've submitted and a neutral panel will select one or the other -- once the two sides have stepped through those doors, there can be no compromise. Arbitration hearings will be scheduled between February 1-21.
The Brewers have gone into an arbitration hearing just five times, most recently with Jose Veras in 2012, when the team won. In 2010, the Brewers lost their arbitration hearing against Corey Hart. In general teams want to avoid arbitration hearings, as they can create animosity between club and player in what is essentially a process in which teams have to point out a player's flaws in order to argue their case.
This year, the Brewers have three players that are eligible for arbitration, all for the first time. Besides Smith, RHP Wily Peralta and SS Jean Segura also filed their paperwork on Tuesday. MLB Trade Rumors projects Segura to make $3.2 million, Peralta to make $2.8 million, and Smith to make $1.2 million.
In the past under former GM Doug Melvin, the Brewers employed a "file and trial" approach to the arbitration process: they would negotiate one-year deals up until figures were exchanged (today) but once that happened, they would only discuss multi-year deals with players, content to allow the arbitration process to resolve itself. This was meant to avoid having agents file unreasonably high salaries in order to drive up the eventual compromise in the middle.
According to Adam McCalvy, it's unknown whether David Stearns plans to continue to employ this strategy. This means that although figures are exchanged today at noon, that's not necessarily the end of negotiations, and we could still see a compromise reached once both sides have submitted their salary proposals. If the club is unable to reach an agreement with any of their three arbitration eligible players, they'll be heading to hearings in mid-February.