Players who haven't signed a long-term contract extension or accrued the MLB service time necessary to be eligible for salary arbitration can have their contracts renewed by their clubs as one-year deals for the coming season.
These pre-arbitration players can negotiate their salaries but have little leverage, as clubs can choose to renew a contract for the Major League minimum if they cannot come to an agreement with the player. Of course, clubs may choose to sign their pre-arbitration players to one-year deals for more than the Major League minimum to build good will for future negotiations, but they are under no obligation to do so.
Clubs cannot reduce players' salaries by more than 20 percent of what they earned in the previous MLB season -- including a player's base salary and additional payments such as performance bonuses, signing bonuses and deferred compensation -- or 30 percent of what they earned two seasons prior, per the Maximum Salary Reduction clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The Red Sox were not able to come to an agreement with Mookie Betts on a salary for the 2017 season, so they renewed his contract for $950,000 -- up from the $566,000 he earned in 2016. The Astros renewed Alex Bregman's contract for the 2018 season, giving the third baseman $599,000 after he earned $539,400 in 2017.
Conversely, the Cubs and Kris Bryant came to an agreement on a $1.05 million contract for the 2017 season in Bryant's last year before salary arbitration, setting a record for the largest one-year deal ever given to a pre-arbitration player.