Friday afternoon was the deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to swap salary proposals, and more than 100 of the 146 eligible players have agreed to contracts in order to avoid the process altogether. However, there are still a handful of star players who remain unsigned. Teams and players still have time to negotiate this month, but any player who doesn't agree soon will have to take his case to a hearing in front of a panel of arbiters.
The list of unsigned stars begins with the Atlanta Braves, who have a trio of All-Stars without 2014 contracts: closer Craig Kimbrel, outfielder Jason Heyward and first baseman Freddie Freeman. The Braves are one of baseball's "file-and-trial" teams, which means that any players whose cases weren't settled by Friday's filing deadline will be allowed to go all the way to arbitration panels. In particular, Kimbrel is expected to have his case reach a hearing; the arbiters will decide between the team's offer of $6.55 million or Kimbrel's request for $9 million, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Indeed, general manager Frank Wren has made it clear that all three players will go to hearings, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, stating that the team is done with negotiations. Heyward ($5.5 million) and the Braves ($5.2 million) were very close in their respective offers, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, while Freeman's $5.75 million figure was met with an offer of $4.5 million by the team.
Another file-and-trial team is the Cincinnati Reds, who didn't agree with pitchers Homer Bailey or Aroldis Chapman. Bailey, who has exceeded 200 innings and thrown a no-hitter in each of the last two seasons, has been the subject of trade rumors this winter due to the fact that the team is pessimistic about signing him to a long-term extension. Therefore, the 27-year-old right-hander, who is eligible for free agency next winter, could potentially be on another team before his case reaches a hearing. Chapman, a two-time All-Star, will earn around $5 million on his next deal after saving 76 games with a 2.00 ERA over the last two seasons; he asked for $5.4 million and the team countered with $4.6 million, reports Heyman, while Bailey ($11.6 million) and the Reds ($8.7 million) are much further apart.
Other National League notables include Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs and Doug Fister of the Nationals. Like Bailey, Samardzija's name has been floated in trade talks during the offseason. However, his recent statement that he would be unlikely to sign an extension with a team that acquired him lessens the chance of a trade. Meanwhile, Fister was already dealt this winter due to his growing salary, so Washington will likely come to terms with him one way or the other -- either internally or through a hearing. Both players' salary proposals were far from their teams' offers; Samardzija's $6.2 million was countered with $4.4 million by the Cubs according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, and Fister's $8.5 million was answered with $5.75 million by the Nationals per Heyman.
In the American League, Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is the biggest name left who remains unsigned. In November, reports emerged that Wieters was looking for a contract similar to the eight-year, $184 million deal Joe Mauer inked in 2010. With the Orioles unwilling to come close to that contract, the two-time All-Star found himself on the trading block during the offseason. However, it seems unlikely that he will be dealt this late in the winter since the club doesn't have an obvious replacement for him behind the plate. Baltimore offered Wieters $6.5 million in arbitration, which would constitute a raise of just $1 million from last season; Wieters countered with $8.75 million, reports Heyman.
On the other hand, the Cleveland Indians and ace pitcher Justin Masterson have mutual interest in signing a long-term extension. Masterson delivered his third straight quality season last year, posting a 3.45 ERA (109 ERA+) and striking out a batter per inning for the first time in his career. It is possible that the two sides failed to come to terms before the deadline because they are working on a longer contract to keep the 2013 All-Star with the team. Or, the delay could be due to their different views of Masteron's value; the pitcher asked for $11.8 million in arbitration while the team offered just $8.05 million, per Heyman, resulting in one of the widest salary gaps of all eligible players.
Looking around the rest of the American League, Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland and Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila have not yet agreed with their teams. This is Avila's second year of arbitration eligibility, while it's the first go-round for Holland. However, both players have gone in opposite directions in the last couple of years; Avila's offensive numbers declined sharply in both 2012 and 2013, and Holland's stock rose dramatically last year after striking out 103 batters in just 67 innings en route to a 47-save season and his first All-Star bid. Holland's request for $5.2 million was met with an offer of $4.1 million by the Royals, reports Heyman.