In today’s MLB—where Giancarlo Stanton inks a deal that could pay him nearly double the gross domestic product of the Republic of Kiribati—”bargain” is a relative term.

Still, during their arbitration years, many players sign for less than what the market would bear. Sometimes far less.

First, a quick primer on the arbitration process: Players with at least three but less than six years of MLB service time (or “Super Twos,” an explanation too complicated for our purposes) can file for salary arbitration.

If a team offers a player arbitration, and the player accepts, each side submits a dollar figure. The two sides can then work out a deal, either a compromise between the submitted figures or a long-term contract.

If no deal is reached, the team and player argue their cases before a third-party arbitration panel, which picks either the player’s or the team’s figure. The panel must choose one or the other; it can’t settle on the middle ground.

Usually, the player and team reach an agreement before the panel gets involved. 

Sometimes the reward is massive. Like the $19.75 million deal David Price just signed with the Detroit Tigers, shattering the arbitration-eligible record set last year by Max Scherzer, also of Detroit. 

But, for this piece, we’re not interested in that contract. Or in, say, low-cost, high-value utility men or inexpensive middle relievers. 

No, today we’re looking for players who combine (relatively) low salaries with at least some star wattage. In other words, this arbitration season’s legitimate big-ticket “bargains.”

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