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Juan Soto, Pete Alonso, Max Fried, more arb-eligible players agree to 2024 deals

Thursday afternoon marked the deadline for teams and players to make a deal and avoid going to a third-party arbitrator.

Pete Alonso of the New York Mets in action against the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning of the second game of a doubleheader at Citi Field on September 30, 2023 in New York City. Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

The Hot Stove continues to leave much to be desired — well, for everyone but the Dodgers that is — but Thursday marked a notable day on the offseason baseball calendar: This evening was the deadline for teams to come to an agreement with their arbitration-eligible players for the 2024 season — and avoid a potentially contentious showdown in front of a third party.

For those unaware of how exactly the arbitration process works, here’s a quick refresher. For their first three years of MLB service time, players make something close to the league minimum of $720,000. After six years of service time, they hit free agency. For the three years in between, however, they have their salaries decided in part by arbitration: Team and players enter negotiations at the start of the offseason, but if the two sides can’t reach an agreement, the matter is sent to a third-party arbitrator to decide which side “wins.” There’s no compromise if it gets to that point; either the player gets his number or the team gets theirs.

Neither side wants to end up on the losing end — and teams don’t want the ugly public optics of an arbitration hearing with a star player — so this process generally results in a deal getting hammered out. That was true again this year, as most notable arb-eligible players wound up agreeing to a dollar amount for the 2024 season. Some, however, opted to head to an arbitrator. We broke it all down below.

Soto sets new arbitration record

Soto is off to a historically unprecedented start to his career, with three All-Star nods, three Silver Slugger Awards, a World Series ring and a ridiculous .284/.421/.524 slash line, all before his 25th birthday last October. A historically unprecedented player deserves a historically unprecedented contract, and that’s exactly what Soto and the Yankees have agreed to: Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the outfielder will be making a whopping $31 million in 2024, the highest number ever for an arbitration-eligible player.

Soto’s $31 million figure breaks the previous record held by, who else, Shohei Ohtani, who earned $30 million in his final year of arbitration last season. Here’s the full, updated list:

  1. Juan Soto, 2024 Yankees: $30-plus-million
  2. Shohei Ohtani, 2023 Angels: $30 million
  3. Mookie Betts, 2020 Dodgers: $27 million
  4. Nolan Arenado, 2019 Rockies: $26 million

Mets, Alonso agree at $20.5 million

Pete Alonso’s future in Queens is very much in question as he enters his contract year, but the Mets were able to agree to terms with their franchise first baseman on a $20.5 million contract for 2024 (per ESPN). Very few players get to the $20 million salary level through arbitration; Alonso ranks fourth among all players in home runs since making his debut in 2018, which certainly helped his case. With a new exec in town in David Stearns — and an agent in Scott Boras who’s always down to shop around — it’s unclear whether Alonso is playing his final season in New York, and Stearns has been coy as to whether he’s even broached the topic of a contract extension.

Brewers, Burnes settle at $15.6 million

12 months after taking their star pitcher to a hearing over a measly $750,000 (and reportedly damaging the relationship in the process), things are far smoother between the Brewers and Corbin Burnes this year. The two sides have agreed to a $15.6 million contract for the coming season (via the New York Post). The 2021 NL Cy Young winner will be a free agent next offseason and he has been mentioned in trade rumors all winter, though Milwaukee seems inclined to keep him to begin the season as it prepares to defend its NL Central title.

Braves, Fried agree at $15 million

The Braves and ace lefty Max Fried have agreed on a $15 million salary for the 2024 season, per FanSided’s Robert Murray. That’s a touch higher than expected — baseball-reference.com estimated he’d end up around $14.4 million, for example — and avoids any contentious negotiations between the two sides a year ahead of Fried hitting free agency. The Braves’ rotation has a bunch of question marks aside from Spencer Strider, so it’ll be interesting to see just how badly Atlanta tries to keep the lefty around for the long haul.

Guardians, Bieber agree at $13.125 million

Shane Bieber has been the subject of some trade speculation this winter, as the ever-stingy Guardians are always trying to get younger and cheaper — especially with a pitcher who appeared to be declining in 2023 and has just one year remaining before free agency. The dollar figure here (via Murray) mostly matters because now any potential trade partners with will know exactly how much Bieber will cost this season. This is still a former Cy Young winner, after all, and one year at the going rate for a back-end starter so far this offseason would be a nice get for a pitching-needy contender.

White Sox, Cease agree at $8 million

Speaking of trade speculation: At the top of teams’ wish lists is Cease, who figures to kick-start the White Sox’ rebuild under new GM Chris Getz sooner rather than later. Unlike Fried and Bieber, this is just Cease’s second go-round in arbitration — that’s why his number is lower than his counterparts above — and is under team control through 2025. As noted with Bieber, the cost certainty makes any potential trade a little less complicated; teams know exactly what Cease will make in 2024 and can plan accordingly. Given his cost control and Cy Young upside, expect Getz to ask for a ransom here.

Shane McClanahan gets two years

The 26-year-old left-hander and the Rays avoided arbitration with a two-year, $7.2 million contract (per Murray). McClanahan has established himself as one of the most electric starters in the game when healthy, but unfortunately we won’t be seeing him on a big league mound for a while: McClanahan had Tommy John surgery last August and is expected to miss just about the entire 2024 season, if not all of it, which explains why his deal covers this year as well as 2025. (His 2025 salary will increase $120,000 for every start he makes in 2024.) McClanahan can not become a free agent until after the 2027 season, and if he returns to health, he’ll be a steal for Tampa at this price.

Other notable names

No deal reached

As always, a few players weren’t able to come to an agreement with their respective teams. As things stand, they’re headed for an arbitration hearing, as it’s increasingly rare for sides to come together after this point. Here are the three most notable names: