A's expected to spend on arbitration-eligible players
New closer Johnson projected to become one of highest paid on Oakland roster
OAKLAND -- The A's are not done spending.
Even though they aren't expected to make any player additions in the coming weeks that precede Spring Training, they'll still be forced to open their checkbooks for seven arbitration-eligible players that remain unsigned.
Relievers Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson, catcher John Jaso, infielders Jed Lowrie and Brandon Moss, and outfielders Josh Reddick and Craig Gentry have yet to reach agreements with the A's for a 2014 salary.
Several important benchmarks in the arbitration process consume this week. On Tuesday, these unsigned players officially filed their desired arbitration salaries. Come Friday, players and teams exchange figures, at which point the two sides learn just how far apart they remain from an agreement.
If a resolution cannot be reached in the days that follow, an arbitration hearing will be scheduled during one of the first three weeks of February and an arbitration panel is left to determine which of the two figures the player will receive. It's one or the other, in that case -- no middle ground.
The A's have a long history of avoiding such hearings, but it's also rare they have so many players left unsigned at this time of year, which should add intrigue to the coming days.
Here is a closer look at each of their cases ...
Johnson will undoubtedly be the A's most expensive project. Their new closer, 30 and a free agent at year's end, took home $6.5 million in 2013 and is expected to earn between $10 million and $11 million in 2014, which will make him one of the team's highest-paid players.
Johnson has totaled a Major League-best 101 saves since 2012. That's nine more than any other pitcher, and he most recently maintained a 2.94 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP, striking out 56 and walking just 18 in 70 1/3 innings last year.
Gregerson, like Johnson, is due a significant salary bump in his final year of arbitration, though not as large. The right-hander made $1.55 million in 2012 and $3.2 million in '13, putting him in line to take home roughly $5 million this time around.
The 29-year-old enjoyed a very strong season in the Padres' bullpen last year, turning in a 2.71 ERA while averaging 8.7 strikeouts and 2.4 walks per nine innings with a 45.5 percent ground-ball rate.
He's been one of the most reliable setup men in baseball over the last few years, in all posting a 2.88 ERA and 352 strikeouts against 107 walks in 363 relief appearances over his five-year career.
Jaso's case is slightly hurt by the concussion that kept him out of the A's lineup for the second half of last season, but the catcher will still get his raise. He's in his second year of arbitration eligibility, and after earning $1.8 million in 2013, he figures to surpass the $2 million mark this year, right around $2.2 million or $2.3 million.
That's a very affordable price tag for a player expected to garner most of the A's DH at-bats. Jaso has been cleared for all baseball activity, but he's still not expected to carry the same load at catcher as he did in the first half last year, when he hit .271/.387/.372.
Lowrie's $2.4 million salary in 2013 is likely to double in size after the shortstop put together his most productive campaign to date. He hit .290 with 15 home runs, 75 RBIs and 45 doubles, just two shy of Jason Giambi's single-season Oakland record. Moreover, his .472 slugging percentage led AL shortstops.
Most importantly, Lowrie was finally able to enjoy a full season void of injuries, playing in 154 games after never having appeared in more than 97 in five previous Major League seasons.
Arbitration-eligible for the first time, Moss is expected to earn between $3.5 million and $4 million. There's no question he's made the most of his playing time in Oakland, batting .269 with 51 home runs and 139 RBIs in just 229 games in two seasons with the A's. His average of 13.94 at-bats per home run over the last two years is the fourth-best mark in the Majors.
In 2013, he led the A's with 30 homers and finished second with 87 RBIs, despite spending most of the season in a platoon at first base, making 106 of his 115 starts against right-handers.
Reddick is also eligible for arbitration for the first time in his career, and he's expected to make just over $2 million in 2014, following a disappointing, injury-ridden 2013 season that saw him hit .226 with a .307 on-base percentage. He totaled 12 homers, 20 fewer than he did in '12, but his defense remained his most valuable asset, and his 24 assists over the last two season rank third among AL outfielders.
Reddick will be paid for what he's done, not what may be ahead, so his 2012 season very much factors into this equation. And the A's are hoping what's ahead is an improvement upon '13, when right wrist woes affected his production. Reddick has since undergone surgery on the wrist.
The 30-year-old Gentry, perhaps the game's most valuable part-time player, is projected to earn $1 million-plus in 2014, his first year as arbitration-eligible.
Acquired by the A's from Texas in December, Gentry hit .280 with four home runs and 65 RBIs in 323 games spanning five seasons with the Rangers. He was successful in 56 of 66 stolen base attempts and flashed tremendous range in the outfield.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.