Outfielder Juan Soto and the San Diego Padres agreed Friday on a one-year, $23 million contract to avoid arbitration, sources told ESPN, the richest deal on a day when nearly 200 players settled on their salaries for the 2023 season.
The arbitration process allows players with more than three years of major league service time to negotiate their salaries with teams for the upcoming season using a comparable-based system. In cases where the sides cannot come to terms on a deal by the Friday deadline, they exchange numbers that they then take into an arbitration hearing, where a three-person panel listens to a case and chooses a side. Occasionally, players and teams will agree on a contract to avoid a hearing.
Thirty-three arbitration-eligible players remained unsigned after Friday and exchanged salary figures with teams -- some of them among the game's best, including Milwaukee right-hander Corbin Burnes, Atlanta left-hander Max Fried, Toronto shortstop Bo Bichette, Houston outfielder Kyle Tucker, New York Mets second baseman Jeff McNeil and Seattle outfielder Teoscar Hernández.
The Tampa Bay Rays, who had 14 players eligible, settled with only half and plan to take on cases against infielder Yandy Diaz, left-hander Jeffrey Springs, first baseman Harold Ramirez and relievers Pete Fairbanks, Colin Poche, Ryan Thompson and Jason Adam. As Saturday dawned, five New York Yankees players remained unsigned, as did three from the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels.
Soto, 24, is in his third year of arbitration, as he was one of a handful of so-called Super 2s -- players who qualify after two-plus seasons in the major leagues -- and previously made $8.5 million and $17.1 million in the system. With one more turn through arbitration remaining, Soto has a good chance to pass Shohei Ohtani, who agreed to a $30 million deal this winter, for the largest salary for an arbitration-eligible player.
Ohtani, 28, is set to reach free agency after the 2023 season and could demand the first $500 million-plus deal in baseball history. Soto, who turned down a 14-year, $440 million contract from the Washington Nationals before they traded him to San Diego before the July deadline, can reach free agency following the 2024 season and could find himself in the same financial neighborhood.
Others who reaped large paydays with deals finalized Friday included:
Mets first baseman Pete Alonso at $14.5 million;
Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at $14.5 million;
Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias at $14.25 million;
Padres closer Josh Hader at $14.1 million, a record for a relief pitcher;
Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins at $12 million;
Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ at $10.85 million;
Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Brandon Woodruff at $10.8 million;
Chicago White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito at $10.4 million;
Cleveland Guardians right-hander Shane Bieber at $10.01 million;
St. Louis Cardinals left-hander Jordan Montgomery at $10 million.