DONE DEAL

Dollar dilemma: Mauricio Dubon's salary arbitration officially settled with Astros

Astros Jose Altuve, Mauricio Dubon, Jake Meyers
Dubon won his arbitration case. Composite Getty Image.

Baltimore outfielder Austin Hays, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Taylor Ward and Houston utilityman Mauricio Dubón won their salary arbitration cases on Tuesday, giving players a 3-2 advantage with 13 cases still pending.

Hays was awarded the $6.3 million he asked for over the Orioles' proposed $5.85 million. Brian Keller, Allen Ponak and Jasbir Parmer made the Hays decision after hearing arguments on Jan. 30. The 28-year-old Hays hit .275 last year with 16 homers and 67 RBIs, earning $3.2 million. The 2023 All-Star is eligible for free agency after the 2025 season.

Ward had asked for $4.8 million compared to the team's offer of $4.3 million. His case was decided by Jeanne Vonhof, Margaret Brogan and Parmer, who conducted the hearing Friday. The 30-year-old Ward hit .253 last year with 14 homers and 47 RBIs, down from a .281 average with 23 homers and 65 RBIs in 2022. His season ended July 29 when he was hit on the head by a 91 mph fastball from Toronto’s Alek Manoah and sustained facial fractures.

Dubón won his case for $3.5 million over the team's offer of $3 million. The Gold Glove winner's hearing was Monday before John Woods, Jeanne Charles and Janice Johnston. The 29-year-old Dubón hit .278 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs in his first full season with Houston, which acquired him from San Francisco in May 2022.

Relivers Jacob Webb of Baltimore and Phil Bickford of the New York Mets were also expected to have their cases decided Tuesday. Webb asked for $1 million vs. $925,000, and Bickford for $900,000 vs. $815,000.

Teams won the first two decisions of the year, beating Miami outfielder Jazz Chisholm Jr. ($2,625,000 vs. his $2.9 million request) and Los Angeles Angels left-hander José Suarez ($925,000 instead of $1.35 million).

Toronto star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the most high-profile case, asking for $19.9 million as the Blue Jays offered $18.05 million. If the case doesn’t settle, it would be the highest salary awarded in arbitration win or lose, topping the $14 million Seattle outfielder Teoscar Hernández received after he lost his hearing last year.

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Cristian Javier is in better shape this season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

As the Astros prepare to play their first game of spring training against the Nationals this Saturday, we're starting to see reports about how the players approached the offseason, and what tweaks they made to improve in the 2024 season.

Cristian Javier is a player Astros fans are hoping bounces back this year, as his ERA jumped from 2.54 in 2022 to 4.56 in 2023. Workload was thought to be one of the main factors causing his regression, he dealt with a dead arm last season and threw more innings than ever before (162).

Another explanation could be the pitch clock. This was another new element all pitchers had to deal with last year, and that also likely played a role in his struggles.

But according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome, Javier believes he was carrying some extra weight last season. Add that to some mechanical issues he was experiencing, and his struggles in 2023 make a lot more sense. And to be fair, he wouldn't be the first person to get a little fat and happy after winning a World Series.

In an effort to get back on track in 2024, Javier said he lost around 15 pounds this offseason. With the pitch clock not going anywhere, pitchers need to be in better cardiac shape than ever before.

Hopefully this modification helps Javier return to form and put up jaw-dropping numbers like he did in 2022. This rotation needs Javier to be the dominate pitcher we all know he's capable of being. With Justin Verlander behind schedule and Framber Valdez trying to bounce back from his own down year, Houston will depend on Javier like never before.

The Astros are certainly counting on it after giving him a 5-year, $64 million contract last season. Javier will definitely be a player to watch this spring.

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