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Mike Trout's New Contract: How do the Yankees Handle Pre-Arbitration Salaries?

Mike Stobe

Mike Trout's raise, or lack thereof, caused a stir this Spring coming off one of the greatest seasons of all time. Despite his performance, he received a raise from the major league minimum of $490,000 to $510,000, equalling roughly five percent. As Grant Brisbee points out at Baseball Nation, the Angels are well within their rights to offer whatever they want, but the five percent raise is definitely on the low end for a Rookie of the Year winner. Derek Jeter was the Yankees' last Rookie of the Year in 1996. The Yankees have had some decent younger performers the past few years and they don't treat their players any different than the Angels have with Mike Trout.

Going back to 2009, I used Cot's contracts to take a look at all of the Yankees' players with under three years of service time who were on the team the prior year. As the minimum salary has increased during that time, I compared the salary the Yankees chose to dole out to the minimum at the time. For players like Trout, with some service time but still under a year, the Yankees have taken the same approach as the Angels -- paying on average three percent more than the minimum.

For players between one and two years of service, the Yankees have given moderate increases, averaging about eight percent above the minimum. For this group, every player but one ranged between seven and thirteen percent above the minimum. Phil Hughes is the lone outlier, receiving only 2% above the minimum in 2009. If you recall in 2008, Hughes started the season in the rotation, but quickly hit the disabled list and did not return until September. Apparently, the Yankees didn't view his service time accumulated on the disabled list as deserving of a raise as compared to other players who contributed on the field. The Yankees have not yet revealed their contracts for the coming year, but Michael Pineda will be an interesting case as the service time he accrued last year came entirely on the disabled list.

The Yankees only had four players in their last year before arbitration. They used quite a bit of leeway in determining these salaries, with Phil Hughes (12%) and David Robertson (11%) on the low end, to Joba Chamberlain (22%) and Brett Gardner (28%) on the high end.

In addition to Pineda, we are waiting to hear on Francisco Cervelli, Eduardo Nunez, and Ivan Nova to see what kind of bump they get for their service. Pre-arbitration salaries have rarely been an issue in previous years as people know how the system works, but we are likely to hear more griping about them if the Yankees actually do start relying more on talented, younger players. The current sort-of Yankee stance on negotiating extensions with younger players may be put to the test.