MLB salary arbitration explained

Kris Bryant
Kris Bryant had a high-profile controversial salary arbitration case. Photo from Bleacher Report.

If you’re new to baseball and you need to have the MLB salary arbitration explained, then you’ve come to the right place.

Unlike most major sports leagues, Major League Baseball players have a huge edge on their contracts. They have the ability to renegotiate their salary once they’re eligible for arbitration, meaning they could make way more money than what they originally signed for.

Team control in baseball is often a complicated issue. Ballclubs have hundreds of players in their control through their farm system, and most of them never even make it to Major League Baseball.

MLB Salary Arbitration Explained

Even though we have cases like Miguel Cabrera, Mookie Betts, or Bryce Harper who make a bunch load of money, that’s not the case with the majority of players. A lot of them spend their entire career trying to make ends meet and are far from wealthy.

Some of them are good enough and lucky enough to climb their way through the farm system.

But even if they make it to The Big Show, there’s still some time before they’re able to cash a big paycheck. That’s when arbitration comes in.

What does arbitration mean in MLB?

Believe it or not, some of the biggest stars in the league have the lowest MLB salary possible. Team control in baseball pretty much allows the franchise to sign them to a bargain deal until a player earns his stripes and is due for a big payday.

Arbitration pretty much means that a player and his team couldn’t reach an agreement on salary based on the player’s contribution on the field and in comparisons with similar players who recently signed their contracts.


They apply for an arbitration hearing where judges could lean in favor of the team or the player.

How does MLB Salary Arbitration work?

The MLB arbitration procedure is rather simple.

The team, the player, and his agent will likely try and reach an agreement before they reach that stage.

If not, the player applies for an arbitration hearing where both parties make their case.

What are the average baseball salaries?

Even though we will find plenty of players at the lowest MLB salary part of the spectrum, the average salary for MLB players in 2017 was $4.17 million.

The lowest MLB salary is set at $570,500, while the highest-earner (Mike Trout of Los Angeles Angels) made $37.17 million this season alone. That’s a big gap.

When do players go to Salary Arbitration?

Arbitration-eligible players are those who have at least 3 years of MLB service under their belts.

It’s also worth noting that those players may not be eligible to enter free agency yet, which means that arbitration could happen between their 3rd and 6th season in the league. For the most part, teams will try to make an agreement and reach a middle ground before reaching that point.

Minor League Baseball salaries

As we mentioned before, team control in baseball can be pretty harsh.

Minor leaguers don’t make nearly half the money that their Major League Baseball colleagues make. As a matter of fact, some teams didn’t even pay them during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

Teams and players agreed to increase their salaries from 38-72% for the 2021 season but they’re still vastly underpaid in comparison to other players.

  • Single-A players make $500 a week, and $10,500 in total salary for five months.
  • Double-A players make $600 a week, and $12,600 in total salary for five months.
  • Triple-A players make $700 a week, and $14,700 in total salary for five months.

So, if you’re a minor leaguer trying to climb your way up and become the next MLB superstar, hang in there. You’ll get your bag eventually.

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