The Dodgers renewed the contracts of Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger on Wednesday, assigning the two young stars a salary after the players declined to agree to the team’s offer.
The Dodgers renewed Seager at $605,000 and Bellinger at $585,000.
The major league minimum salary this season is $545,000. Under the collective bargaining agreement, teams are otherwise free to pay whatever they like to players not yet eligible for salary arbitration.
Seager, who will be eligible for arbitration next year, shrugged at the question of whether he was frustrated to be renewed for a second consecutive season.
“It’s just the way it is,” Seager said.
Bellinger said he was not entirely familiar with the process.
“That’s why I’ve got an agent,” he said.
Scott Boras, the agent for Seager and Bellinger, said other teams have made significant exceptions to pre-arbitration salary scales to reward players after historic performances. Seager and Bellinger are the consecutive winners of the National League rookie-of-the-year award; Bellinger set the NL record for home runs by a rookie last season.
In 2002, after Albert Pujols had won rookie of the year, the St. Louis Cardinals paid him $600,000, in a year the minimum salary was $200,000.
The Chicago Cubs last year paid $1.05 million to defending NL most valuable player Kris Bryant, who was at the same level of experience then as Seager is now.
“We encourage teams to try to operate in a similarly situated theater so that a player feels equitably treated,” Boras said. “That is their choice during this time in a player’s career. It’s obviously difficult for a player to get paid half of another player who has the same rights, but that’s what the organizational choice is.
“We choose to recognize these rights. We never have players not report, or not show up. It’s something we certainly discuss as their contract history with the team goes forward.”
As an increasing number of teams exercise their power to reward young players on a salary scale, fans often wonder whether a star whose contracts is renewed might hold it against the team when the time comes to negotiate to a long-term deal.
In 2013, after Mike Trout won American League rookie of the year and finished second in voting for most valuable player, the Angels renewed him at $510,000, just $20,000 above the minimum salary. Trout said the renewal did not damage his relationship with the Angels.
“Getting renewed doesn’t really mean anything,” Trout said Wednesday. “You always want to get more money, but I don’t think anything of it.”
The next year, the Angels signed Trout to a six-year, $144.5-million contract. He will be the highest-paid player in the major leagues this season, at $33.25 million.
Bullpen sessions generally are supervised by a pitching coach, or two. Not to say the Dodgers are high on Wilmer Font, but his bullpen session Wednesday was supervised by manager Dave Roberts and All-Star closer Kenley Jansen.
“It was incredible,” Font said. “Wow, what those two guys know about baseball. I hope I can talk more often with those two guys.”
Font led the Pacific Coast League in earned-run average and strikeouts last year. The 27-year-old Venezuelan has pitched professionally since 2007, but he is trying to make an opening-day roster for the first time. This could be his time: the Dodgers have an opening in the bullpen, and he is out of options.
Jansen said Roberts had asked him to work with Font on a more effective delivery.
“He can help us,” Jansen said. “He’s good.”