Third basemen Josh Donaldson and Kris Bryant set records Friday when they were among 145 players who agreed to one-year contracts rather than swap proposed salaries in arbitration with their teams.
Donaldson and Toronto agreed at $23 million, the largest one-year deal for an arbitration-eligible player. The 32-year-old, a three-time All-Star, topped the $21,625,000, one-year deal covering 2018 agreed to last May by outfielder Bryce Harper and Washington.
Donaldson, the 2015 AL MVP, got a $6 million raise after rebounding from an injury-slowed 2016 to hit .270 last season with 33 homers and 78 RBIs in 113 games. The sure-handed infielder missed time from April 14 through May 25 with a calf injury, which also hampered him during spring training.
Bryant settled with the Chicago Cubs at $10.85 million, the most for a player eligible for arbitration for the first time. The previous mark was held by Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard, who was awarded $10 million by a three-person panel in 2008.
"Arbitration is a fairly rote exercise where you put up your numbers, you accumulate your rewards, then you compare them to guys who have done similar things in the past," Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said. "In his case, you know you don't usually go a decade back for a comp, but Ryan Howard having won the MVP and obviously there's been some inflation since then. It took care of itself. He earned it. He's going to set a lot of records in his day and I get more excited about the ones on the field, but this is a well-deserved and appropriate salary."
Bryant hit .295 with 29 home runs and 73 RBIs last year, when he made $1.05 million. The previous season, he earned National League MVP honors when he hit .292 with 39 homers and 102 RBIs. The Cubs won the World Series that year for the first time since 1908.
"I don't look at money records," Bryant said. "I guess the records on the field are way more important, because when you're doing that, you know, you're helping the team. But it really is a cherry on top when you get paid millions of dollars to do something that you've loved since you were 4 years old."
Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado agreed at $16 million, Colorado outfielder Charlie Blackmon at $14 million, Houston pitcher Dallas Keuchel at $13.2 million and injured Orioles closer Zach Britton at $12 million. The quartet, like Donaldson, can become free agents after the season. Britton ruptured his right Achilles tendon in offseason training and figures to have a delayed start to his season.
Just 27 players swapped figures are remain on track for hearings, which will be held from Jan. 29-Feb. 16 in Phoenix.
Mookie Betts and Boston had the biggest gap at $3 million, with the outfielder asking for $10.5 million and the Red Sox offering $7.5 million. Outfielder George Springer and World Series champion Houston had the second-biggest difference ($10.5 million vs. $8.5 million) and second baseman Jonathan Schoop and Baltimore the third ($9 million vs. $7.5 million).
A trio of right-handed pitchers had the smallest difference: Mike Foltynewicz and Atlanta ($2.3 million vs. $2.2 million), Dan Straily and Miami ($3.55 million vs. $3,375,000), and Shelby Miller and Arizona ($4.9 million vs. $4.7 million).
Teams won eight of 15 decisions last winter, the most hearings since clubs went 10-6 in 2004. Several clubs refused to negotiate after the exchange of proposed arbitration salaries, a so-called "file and trial" strategy.
Teams have a 302-224 edge since arbitration started in 1974.
AP Sports Writer Jay Cohen in Chicago contributed to this report.
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