Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez is not yet eligible for arbitration, so his team has almost all of the power over his contract status until then. Typically, the two sides negotiate a salary but it’s rarely much more than the major league minimum salary (currently $535,000). There are exceptions, such as when the Cubs recently renewed Kris Bryant‘s contract at a record $1.05 million. But teams simply have all of the leverage so there are only a few cases in which they feel incentivized to budge.
The Jays and Sanchez, represented by Scott Boras, could not come to an agreement on his 2017 salary, so the club renewed him for the major league minimum at $535,000, Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports. Understandably, Boras isn’t happy about it. He called it the “harshest treatment any team could provide a player.”
The full quote from Boras:
They offered him a very small raise above the minimum, which is not commensurate to his performance peers. Some teams have very low payment standards but they say if you renew we understand, but you still keep the money we’re giving you. Toronto is so rigid, they not only have a very antiquated or substandard policy compared to the other teams for extraordinary performance, but if you don’t accept what that low standard is, they then have the poison pill of saying, you get paid the minimum. It’s the harshest treatment in baseball that any club could provide for a player. That’s why few teams have such a policy.
Jays GM Ross Atkins said of the situation, “I don’t see it as punitive, we don’t see it as punitive because it’s your choice to not accept the higher number.”
Sanchez, 24, went 15-2 last season with an American League-best 3.00 ERA along with a 161/63 K/BB ratio in 192 innings. He also pitched a quality game in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Indians, helping the Jays stave off a sweep.
If Sanchez were to hit the free agent market today, he would get a large multi-year contract. He will certainly get a noticeable raise when he becomes arbitration-eligible after the season. The Jays are taking advantage of Sanchez’s current lack of leverage. What his situation — and Bryant’s, and others’ — shows is how outmoded and unfair the system is when it comes to properly compensating talented young players. Remember, this is after many of those young players toil in the minor leagues for several years and receive less than minimum wage. The power imbalance between pre-arb players and their teams is something that the players’ union might want to address in the next round of negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement.