Arbitration season is upon us, and it will lead to several interesting evaluations where the Royals are concerned. After agreeing to terms with Wilson Betemit and Brayan Pena last month, the Royals have five remaining arbitration-eligible players on their 40-man roster -- first baseman Billy Butler, outfielder Alex Gordon, right-handed starters Kyle Davies and Luke Hochevar and right-handed reliever Robinson Tejeda. Arbitration filing begins Wednesday and runs through Jan. 15, giving the player and the club some time to settle in advance of a hearing. Jan. 18 is the day to exchange salary figures. If a compromise can't be reached, the club and the player would then go to a hearing, in which an impartial arbiter would hear each side's case and make a judgment in favor of either the player's salary request or the team's salary offer for 2011. The hearings will run from Feb. 1-21.
The Royals have been down this road before with Davies, who is in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility, and Tejeda, who is in his second year of eligibility. Butler, Gordon and Hochevar, on the other hand, are all eligible for the first time. Because he is in his third year of eligibility, Davies, who made $1.8 million last season, figures to command the largest pay day, despite his subpar numbers (8-12 record and 5.34 ERA in 32 starts) in 2010. It had been speculated that Davies might be non-tendered last month so that the Royals could avoid going through the arbitration process with him. But the Zack Greinke trade with the Brewers has amplified Davies' standing in the Royals' rotation. Hochevar is a prominent member of that rotation, perhaps taking over as the club's Opening Day starter, now that Greinke is gone. In 18 appearances last season, Hochevar went 6-6 with a 4.81 ERA, missing nearly three months with a right elbow strain and returning in September. The first overall pick in the 2006 Draft, Hochevar signed a four-year, $5.3 million contract (with a $3.5 million signing bonus) after he was selected. He then signed a $1.76 million contract for 2010 and achieved arbitration-eligibility through Super Two status. Tejeda had a strong season in his first full year as a full-time reliever, posting a 3.54 ERA in 61 innings. He made $950,000 after his first taste of the arbitration process and will be due for another big bump. Butler, who has yet to fully reach his potential as a bona fide middle-of-the-order threat, will no longer come on the cheap for the Royals. They paid him $470,000 as he posted a .318/.388/.469 line, 15 homers and 78 RBIs in 2010 and figure to pay him much more in 2011. Gordon is also due a raise at an interesting crossroads in his career, as he was sent down to Triple-A last year to make the shift from third base to left field. He'll be the Royals' starter in left this season after hitting just .215 with a .671 OPS in 74 games in the bigs last year.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.