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The Opener: Arbitration Hearings, Roster Moves, Bullpen Market

As the MLB offseason continues, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:

1. Arbitration hearings start today:

Twenty-two players did not reach an agreement on their 2024 salary with their club on or before the day figures were were exchanged ahead of arbitration. Some agreements could still be reached to avoid hearings — Casey Mize, Cionel Perez and Tommy Edman have already done so with the Tigers, Orioles and Cardinals, respectively — but many will head to a hearing where a panel of three arbiters will choose either the player’s or team’s submitted figure for the upcoming season. Outfielder Adolis Garcia ($6.9MM) and the Rangers ($5MM) have the largest spread between their submitted figures, while the figures put forth for Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ($19.9MM and $18.05MM) are the highest of any player with an unresolved case. Click here for MLBTR’s full list of figures exchanged between teams and players.

2. Incoming 40-man roster moves:

A host of agreements were agreed to over the weekend, led by a pre-debut extension for Tigers infielder Colt Keith. Meanwhile, the free agent market saw the Cubs and Hector Neris, the Mets and Adam Ottavino, the A’s and Alex Wood, as well as the Royals and Adam Frazier all come together on one-year deals on the free agent market. Each of those five teams will need to make a corresponding roster move to clear space for their newly-signed player on the 40-man roster in the near future. Commonly, teams will simply designate another player for assignment to clear space on the 40-man roster, though occasionally a team will work out a minor trade to pick up a player who does not require a roster spot in exchange for a player who does. One such example occurred just last week, when the Rangers shipped outfielder J.P. Martinez to Atlanta in a deal that made room for right-hander David Robertson on the 40-man roster.

3. Bullpen market thinning:

The market for relief arms has been very active since top-of-the-market southpaw Josh Hader landed in Houston on a five-year, $95MM deal earlier this month. This weekend proved to be no exception as two of the final remaining established set-up men coming off successful seasons, Neris and Ottavino, both reached agreements for the 2024 campaign. Even as options available in free agency dwindle, there remain some interesting arms clubs could look to sign. The left-handed relief class is highlighted by the likes of Wandy Peralta and Brad Hand at this point in the winter, while former Astros hurlers Phil Maton and Ryne Stanek are among the best right-handed options remaining. Teams looking for impact at the back of the bullpen could also turn to the trade market, where closers such as Cleveland’s Emmanuel Clase and Boston’s Kenley Jansen are rumored to be available, to varying extents.

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