Salary Arb: Trea Turner’s Unique Profile and Anthony Rendon Comp
Image via Dodger Blue
With his combination of power and speed, Los Angeles Dodgers’ infielder Trea Turner is one of the most electric players in Major League Baseball today. At 28 years old, he is already one of only five players in MLB history with three career cycles, and this winter, Turner will do something that very few baseball players do - go through the arbitration process for the 4th time! Along with 11 other hitters, Turner was a Super Two player in 2019, and thus eligible for an additional arbitration year. Out of that initial group, only Turner and Hedges have made it to their 4th arbitration year without signing an extension, getting non-tendered, or falling behind accruing service time. For an explanation on Super Two criteria, see this article! Despite having gone through the arbitration process three times already, Turner has never actually had to sit for a hearing - he settled at $3.725M in 2019, settled at $7.45M in 2020, and settled once again with the Nationals at $13M in 2021. This is not uncommon.
In the last 5 years, only 14 Super Two hitters have gone through the arbitration process for the 4th time, and only Josh Donaldson had ever been through an arbitration hearing. In fact, all 14 of those hitters reached a settlement with their Club and avoided going to trial during their 4th arbitration year. In 2021, Kris Bryant was the only 4th time eligible Super Two player and settled with the Cubs for a salary of $19.5M, a raise of only $900K. All three 4th time Super Two players in 2020, all four in 2019, and all three in both 2018, and 2017, settled with their clubs and avoided a trial.
The group of hitters most comparable to Turner are Nolan Arenado (settled for $26M in 2019) Josh Donaldson (settled for $23M in 2018), George Springer (settled for $21M in 2020), Kris Bryant (settled for $19.5M in 2021), and Anthony Rendon (settled for $18.8M in 2019) However, most of Turner’s ‘salary neighbors’ within this group of hitters - Nolan Arenado, Josh Donaldson, and George Springer - agreed to two-year extensions which bought out their 2nd and 3rd years of arbitration eligibility, taking them out of the picture for a 3rd year to 4th year comparison of arbitration raises. Unlike Turner, Bryant was coming off a down year in 2020 where he hit just .206 with 4 home runs in only 34 games. Since Kris Bryant did not perform well in his platform season (Trea finished 5th in MVP voting in his platform season), had a much higher third time arbitration salary ($18,600,000 to $13,000,000), and had both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards (Trea has neither), he would likely not serve as a good comparison for either team or player side when putting together a potential Turner case.
Enter Anthony Rendon.
Anthony Rendon received the largest raise from 3rd to 4th year of arbitration eligibility in MLB history when he settled with the Nationals at a salary of $18.8M in 2019, a $6.5M raise from his $12.3M salary in 2018. Just like Turner, Rendon settled with the Nationals in each of his first three arbitration eligible seasons:
First Time Eligible:
Turner (2019): $3,725,000
Rendon (2016): $2,800,000
Second Time Eligible:
Turner (2020): $7,450,000
Rendon (2017): $5,800,000
Third Time Eligible:
Turner (2021): $13,000,000
Rendon (2018): $12,300,000
Turner and Rendon’s salaries reflect comparable performance on the field. When Rendon was eligible for his 4th arbitration year, he was coming off a season in which he finished 11th in MVP voting and 3rd in Gold Glove voting (he was not selected as an All-Star). In his career, Rendon had recorded one top 5 MVP finish, two top 10 MVP finishes, and won the Comeback Player of the Year award in 2016. Similarly, Turner also has recorded one top 5 MVP finish and two top 10 MVP finishes, however unlike Rendon, Turner was selected as an All-Star in his platform season.
Turner’s platform season performance was stronger than Rendon’s nearly across the board, with Turner holding an advantage in: Runs (107 to 88), Homeruns (28 to 24), Stolen Bases (32 to 2), AVG (.328 to .308), and Wins Above Replacement (6.5 rWAR and 6.9 fWAR to 5.1 and 6.2 respectively). That’s not to take anything away from Rendon or the season that he had in 2018. In fact, there is a strong argument to be made that Turner had the greatest hitting season ever for any 4th time arbitration eligible hitter - his totals of 107 Runs, .328 Batting Average, 6.5 rWAR, and 6.9 fWAR are each the highest ever within that group.
With Rendon and his $6.5M raise as the only realistic comparison for Turner, it is no stretch to predict that Trea receives at least a $7M raise, putting his 2022 salary at or above $20M. This would continue the trend of Trea placing himself in elite company: he would become just the 5th hitter in Major League history to receive a salary arbitration award above $20M, joining Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Josh Donaldson, Francisco Lindor, and George Springer. Whether or not Turner and the Dodgers reach a settlement or go to trial, it is likely that one of the most underrated players in MLB will quietly make history once again this winter.
Dean Rosenberg is a 2L student at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City. He can be found on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/dean-rosenberg-4a1507a1/ and on Twitter @deanrosen7. For all of Dean’s Conduct Detrimental Articles, click here.
 Byron Buxton, Curt Casali, Brandon Drury, Austin Hedges, Travis Jankowski, Max Kepler, Jose Peraza, Kevin Plawecki, Blake Swihart, and Tony Wolters  https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/01/10/joe-ross-nationals-avoid-arbitration-by-settling-before-deadline/  https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28460082/trea-turner-nationals-avoid-arbitration-745m-deal-2020  https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/01/nationals-trea-turner-avoid-arbitration.html  Kris Bryant, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jake Marisnick, George Springer, Nolan Arenado, Didi Gregorius, Jurickson Profar, Anthony Rendon, Lonnie Chisenhall, Josh Donaldson, Martin Maldonado, Darwin Barney, Lucas Duda, and Eric Hosmer  Donaldson lost to the Blue Jays his first time eligible for arbitration in 2015 when he filed at $5,750,000 and the Club filed at $4,300,00  https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/30719204/chicago-cubs-avoid-arbitration-kris-bryant-javy-baez  Jackie Bradley Jr., Jake Marisnick, and George Springer  Nolan Arenado, Didi Gregorius, Jurickson Profar, and Anthony Rendon  Lonnie Chisenhall, Josh Donaldson, and Martin Maldonado  Darwin Barney, Lucas Duda, and Eric Hosmer  https://www.purplerow.com/2017/1/13/14247806/colorado-rockies-nolan-arenado-arbitration-contract  https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2016/02/blue-jays-josh-donaldson-agree-to-two-year-extension.html  https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/22331130/george-springer-houston-astros-agree-two-year-deal-avoid-arbitration  Ibid  https://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/awards_2021.shtml  Settled for $27M with the Red Sox in 2020  Settled for $26M with the Rockies in 2019  Settled for $23M with the Blue Jays in 2018  Settled for $22.3M with the Mets in 2021  Settled for $21M with the Astros in 2020