The Washington Nationals have settled with three of their five arbitration-eligible players, according to sources with knowledge of the various negotiations, as Friday’s deadline to exchange salary figures has come and gone.
The Nationals could not reach agreements with outfielder Michael A. Taylor or reliever Kyle Barraclough on Friday, according to a source with knowledge of each player’s situation. Friday’s 1 p.m. deadline was only to exchange salary figures for a potential arbitration hearing in February, meaning teams and players can still negotiate contracts of any size in the interim. The Nationals typically like to avoid arbitration hearings — the last one they went to was with reliever Jerry Blevins in 2015, and they wound up trading him before the season began — but not settling this week could indicate contentious negotiations.
MLB Trade Rumors, a web site with a strong track record of predicting arbitration figures, indicated Taylor should make around $3.2 million in his second year of arbitration eligibility. It projects that the 28-year-old Barraclough, in his first year of arbitration eligibility, should make around $1.9 million. The next step, if either player and team cannot reach an agreement in the coming weeks, would be an arbitration hearing. The arbiters decide between the team’s figure and the player’s, while considering no other options. The combative nature of the hearings can often strain relationships between the two sides, with teams often detailing their player’s weaknesses to win the hearing.
Any tension between the Nationals and Taylor could stem from the end of last season, in which Taylor underperformed at the plate and saw his at-bats dwindle once Victor Robles was called up at the start of September. Taylor, who broke out for the Nationals with 19 home runs and a .271 average in 2017, hit just .122 last August and .200 in the final month of the season. Barraclough has no such history with the Nationals, as the right-hander joined the team in early October when the Nationals acquired him from the Miami Marlins for $1 million in international slot money. He is under team control until 2022 and is expected to provide middle-inning relief for the Nationals in 2019.
Rendon’s agreement, with MLB Trade Rumors projecting him to make around $17.6 million this season, may hold greater significance than a short-term deal. The Nationals have been trying to sign him to a long-term extension, with discussions beginning last season, and he would have appeared closer to doing so if he did not settle on a one-year deal this week.
If Bryce Harper does not return to the Nationals, as his free agency continues to drag along, Rendon becomes even more of a franchise cornerstone and the need for a long-term extension grows. His short-term future was solidified this week, as was those for Turner and Ross. But it is Rendon’s status beyond 2019, much like the current contracts for Taylor and Barraclough, that remains in the balance.
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