It was business as usual for the KC Royals Monday when, as has been their custom for years, they reached a deal with a key player to sidestep the risks of arbitration.
Just a day before the salary proposal filing and exchange date, the club signed infielder Adalberto Mondesi to a $3 million, one season contract. Mondesi has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining and can test the free agent market after the 2023 season.
Mondesi’s deal left seven arbitration-eligible Royals—pitchers Brad Keller and Scott Barlow, left fielder Andrew Benintendi, infielder Nicky Lopez, outfielder-first baseman Ryan O’Hearn, backup catcher Cam Gallagher and newly-acquired reliever Amir Garrett—unsigned. And the contract fates of over two dozen pre-arbitration players with major league potential remained unknown.
Tuesday proved productive, however. Kansas City avoided arbitration by finalizing one-year deals with Keller, Barlow, O’Hearn, Gallagher and Garrett.
And they announced single-season contracts with these pre-arb Royals:
Failing to find common ground by Tuesday’s deadline triggered the formal arbitration process for Lopez, Benintendi and the club.
What happens now?
The KC Royals may have to do battle with Nicky Lopez and Andrew Benintendi.
Lopez, Benintendi and KC’s front office team must now prepare for arbitration hearings which will determine whether the two players get what they want or what the club has offered.
But those hearings aren’t inevitable—nothing bars the players and club from continuing talks, so they can still resolve their disputes short of squaring off in arbitration. And because the differences in the parties’ compensation proposals don’t, in the grand scheme of baseball’s financial world, seem insurmountable—MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported via Twitter that less than $500,000 separates Lopez and the Royals, while Benintendi wants $1.2 million more than the club’s proposal—there’s reason to believe the players and team can get deals done.
The KC Royals didn’t break the bank with other arbitration-eligible players.
Signing Keller, Barlow, Garrett, Gallagher and O’Hearn won’t substantially deplete Kansas City’s coffers. Kansas City Star Royals beat writer Lynn Worthy reports via Twitter that two-time club Pitcher of the Year Keller signed for $4.825 million, 2021 team Pitcher of the Year Barlow for $2.4 million, Garret for $2.025 million, and Gallagher for $885,000. Per FanSided’s Robert Murray (Twitter link), the Royals will pay O’Hearn $1.3 million.
How many of these KC Royals players will be arbitration-eligible next year?
Assuming Kansas City wants to bring back for 2023 all eight of its players who were eligible for arbitration this year, the club, absent negotiating new contracts with them, will need to go through the arbitration process with all but Benintendi, who will be eligible for free agency for the first time when this season ends.
Mondesi and Garrett can’t be free agents until after the 2023 campaign while O’Hearn, Barlow and Gallagher can try the market for the first time following the 2024 season.
Lopez has the longest wait. He won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2025 season.
The Royals have signed over 30 players, including five who were arbitration-eligible, but Nicky Lopez and Andrew Benintendi still don’t have new contracts.