Cardinals Settle with All Three Arbitration-Eligible Players

photo: Marcell Ozuna (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Friday, January 11) that they have reached agreement on one-year contracts for the upcoming 2019 season with pitchers Michael Wacha and Dominic Leone and outfielder Marcell Ozuna, thus avoiding salary arbitration.  Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Wacha, 27, was 8-2 with a 3.20 ERA in 15 starts during an injury-shortened 2018 season that saw his season come to an end on June 20 when he suffered a left oblique injury.  Wacha was T2nd in the National League in wins and ranked 10th in ERA at the time of his injury. His .624 winning pct. (53-32) over the past six seasons (2013-18) ranks 10th among National League pitchers.

Michael Wacha

Ozuna, 28, batted .280 with 23 home runs and a team-leading 88 RBI in his initial season with the Cardinals, co-leading the team in hits (163), while leading all Major League left fielders in innings played (1,283.1).  The “Big Bear” tied for the N.L. lead in go-ahead RBI (31) with the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, and after a stint on the disabled list from Aug. 22-31 due to right shoulder inflammation, he returned to rank among N.L. leaders in September HR’s (7-T7th) and RBI (19-T8th).  Ozuna’s 212 RBI over the past two seasons (2017-18) rank 2nd in the Senior Circuit.

Marcell Ozuna

Leone, 27, appeared in just 29 games last season, missing nearly 100 games while on the disabled list (May 6 to August 25) with a right upper arm nerve irritation.  He was 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA and 5 Holds last season and appeared in 14 of the team’s final 32 games after returning from the disabled list, including scoreless outings in each of his last four appearances (1.2 IP).

Dominic Leone

Brian Walton’s take

The arbitration process is working as intended. Once the two sides had to declare their respective final pre-hearing financial positions, which were due today, it likely enabled them to settle on a middle ground.

The Cardinals have a policy (as do many other teams) that they would take the player to hearing next month if there was no agreement by today, rather than continuing to negotiate in the interim. Wacha went to hearing two years ago, but lost.

Preliminary estimates from MLB Trade Rumors, based on comparable players:

Ozuna – $13.4 MM (third and final year)
Wacha – $6.6 MM (final year)
Leone – $1.3 MM (second year)

Ozuna’s salary jumps from $9 million in 2018 to $12.25 million in 2019, per the Post-Dispatch.

Wacha and the Cardinals settled at $6,350,000 plus $100,000 if he pitches 175 innings, per Robert Murray of The Athletic. Wacha made $5.3 million in 2018.

Leone’s new salary is $1.26 million, per the Post-Dispatch. The right-hander was paid $1.085 million last season in his first year eligible for arbitration.

Earlier, the resolution of two other Cardinals arbitration-eligible players for 2019 were decided. Reliever Chasen Shreve came to terms on a one-year, $900,000 contract and infielder Greg Garcia was claimed off waivers by San Diego.

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