Jack Flaherty forces contract renewal, calls system ‘not great’

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Recently, we covered the Rays’ decision to give reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell a meager $5,500 raise in renewing his contract. Teams have typically rewarded their young players who go above and beyond production-wise with more significant raises. Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, for example, had his salary bumped up to $1.05 million after winning the 2016 NL MVP Award. Snell, known as a “pre-arbitration” player because he has not yet reached three years of service time, said his situation with the Rays is “disappointing.”

Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty was impressive in his own right last year. As a 22-year-old, he posted a 3.34 ERA with 182 strikeouts and 59 walks across 151 innings, establishing himself as one of the Cardinals’ most reliable starters. Flaherty has just over one year of service time in the big leagues. The Cardinals offered him a $572,100 salary, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. That’s only $17,100 above the major league minimum.

Flaherty chose to reject his meager raise in protest. The Cardinals, as is their collectively bargained right, renewed his contract at a lesser $562,100. Teammate Jordan Hicks was in a similar situation, though the specific salary figures exchanged are not yet known.

Flaherty said, “It’s nothing on the Cardinals. They play within what the system is. Their process is great and it makes sense, but in the grand scheme of things, the system itself that everybody plays under just isn’t — it’s not a great system for everybody.” He added, “The system as a whole is not great.”

Because players advocating for themselves and their peers is often met with derision from fans (and the media), Flaherty preemptively defended himself. He said, “I never ever want anything to come in the way of getting a chance to play the game that we all love. We’re grown men playing a kids’ game. We all remember that. We all reflect on that. I make sure that I know that. Obviously, there is a business side to it. I like to be informed and about how teams go about it. This has nothing to do with the Cardinals. I understand the way it works. Everybody plays under the same rules, it’s just that the entirety of the system is not great.”

Flaherty shouldn’t feel a need to get out in front of the issue like that, but unfortunately, fans tend to immediately side with billionaire owners instead of the players when it comes to labor issues. The Rays and Cardinals aren’t alone in doing this to their pre-arb players. Every team does it to some degree. Usually, the issue doesn’t get much attention, but given everything else going on with free agency and service time manipulation, the teams’ decision-making processes are being put under the microscope, as they should be.

Batting champion Luis Arraez beats Marlins in salary arbitration

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — AL batting champion Luis Arraez won his arbitration case and will get a $6.1 million salary from the Miami Marlins, who acquired the All-Star infielder from the Minnesota Twins last month.

Miami argued for $5 million during a hearing before John Stout, Mark Burstein and Scott Buchheit. Arraez received a raise from $2.2 million.

Marlins pitcher Jesus Luzardo went to a hearing and asked for a raise from $715,000 to $2.45 million, while Miami proposed $2.1 million. The case was heard by Stout, Melinda Gordon and Richard Bloch, who were expected to issue their decision.

Arraez hit .316 with eight homers, 49 RBIs and a .795 OPS last year for Minnesota, starting 61 games at first base, 34 at designated hitter and 31 at second. The 25-year-old was traded on Jan. 20 for starting pitcher Pablo Lopez and a pair of prospects: infielder Jose Salas and outfielder Byron Chourio.

Arraez is eligible for free agency after the 2026 season.

Luzardo, a 25-year-old left-hander, was 4-7 with a 3.32 ERA in 18 starts last year, striking out 120 and walking 35 in 100 1/3 innings. He is 13-18 with a 3.59 ERA in 45 starts and 16 relief appearances over four big league seasons.

Luzardo also is eligible for free agency after the 2026 season.

Seattle defeated Diego Castillo in the first salary arbitration decision this year, and the relief pitcher will get a raise to $2.95 million rather than his request of $3,225,000.

A decision is being held for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Twenty-two players remain scheduled for hearings, to take place through Feb. 17. Among them, utilityman Dylan Moore and the Seattle Mariners have a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.