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Guardians estimated to owe almost $40 million in arbitration next year

MLB Trade Rumors’ annual arbitration estimates are out, and Guardians have a lot of decisions to make

Baltimore Orioles v Cleveland Guardians Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

Even though their 2022 dreams came up short, the Guardians are in a fantastic place for the future. Thanks to a young group that wildly outperformed all expectations and a full roster of prospects still coming up the pipeline, the future of baseball is bright in Cleveland.

While the Guards are still a couple of years away from having to pay the likes of Steven Kwan and Oscar Gonzalez anything above the league minimum, next year’s arbitration is going to be an interesting — and pivotal — time for the front office. For one, four of the five primary starters in the 2022 regular season are up for arbitration, as are key players like James Karinchak, Josh Naylor, and Amed Rosario.

Here is what MLB Trade Rumors estimates the Guardians will owe each player in arbitration (service time in parenthesis):

Luke Maile (5.148): $1.3MM

Amed Rosario (5.062): $9MM

Shane Bieber (4.097): $10.7MM

Anthony Gose (3.139): $800K

Cal Quantrill (3.132): $6MM

Josh Naylor (3.1287): $3.5MM

Zach Plesac (3.086): $2.9MM

Aaron Civale (3.058): $2.2MM

James Karinchak (2.169): $1.4MM

Yes, you read that right. Thirty-one-year-old Luke Maile, one of the Guardians’ only offseason acquisitions, has the most service time among arbitration-eligible players. Being that he is a backup light-hitting catcher at best, he’s not going to be owed much even in his fourth year of arbitration. But the Guardians still have a decision to make there.

Austin Hedges is set to become a free agent after making $4 million as an elite defensive catcher. He seemed to love playing with this group and the pitchers liked him, but do the Guardians shell out to keep him around when they could pay barely over a million for Maile and start working Bo Naylor into the mix more? Remember, the Guardians took three catchers into the postseason — they probably aren’t doing that for 162 regular-season games. There could also be other sizable upgrades available in free agency and in trades.

Amed Rosario provides a similar dilemma, but at a whopping $9 million. The 26-year-old shortstop was reportedly a leader in the clubhouse and even had José Ramírez personally requesting he stick around, but he was basically a dead-on average player in 2022. His 103 wRC+ was nothing special, and neither was his defense at short, to put it nicely. But we saw this season just how important the culture of the clubhouse was — is it worth paying for that with the middle infield talent the Guardians have bubbling up at the top of the minors? Gabriel Arias sure looked like a decent bat in the postseason, and he’s probably not a first baseman.

Personally, I would be shocked if the Guardians pay Zach Plesac another penny. The many self-inflicted injuries plus dwindling effectiveness on the mound make me think it won’t be hard moving on from him, regardless of the cost. Even with his ALDS Game 5 implosion, Aaron Civale has proven to be a solid starter over stretches, so $2.2 million seems like an easy sell.

Concrete dates have yet to be announced, but typically salary figures are due by each side in January and court dates as set in February. Last year’s lockout pushed things back — and even into the regular season in some cases — but that won’t be an issue next year.

Keep in mind that the Guardians, like most teams, are big fans of getting arbitration deals done before it goes to an oftentimes messy court date to decide how much eligible players will receive. They can also trade any of these players before arbitration even comes up. It might not happen until all the way in January of next year if they take it down to the wire, but don’t be surprised to see the Guardians avoid court with all their eligible players again this year.