CINCINNATI -- Two Reds -- shortstop Zack Cozart and reliever J.J. Hoover -- were among 156 Major League players who formally filed for salary arbitration ahead of a deadline on Tuesday.
Cozart is eligible for arbitration for the second time, and this is Hoover's first year of eligibility. The next deadline is Friday, when clubs and eligible players exchange their desired salary figures for a 2016 contract.
Players with at least three seasons of Major League service time, and fewer than six seasons, are generally eligible for arbitration. While the player is still controlled by the club during this time, contract negotiations can stretch throughout the winter and into the start of Spring Training.
Hearings are slated to begin next month, but their scheduled dates are often not publicized. Negotiations can continue up until the final minute before the arbitration hearing is slated to start.
Once the hearing begins, a three-person panel listens to the cases presented by the team's counsel and the player's agent or counsel. Usually one day later, the panel determines who prevailed and the player is automatically bound to a one-year contract at the determined figure. The Reds have had a long track record of avoiding a hearing against their own players. The last time it happened was in 2004, when Cincinnati won its case against pitcher Chris Reitsma.
Cozart avoided arbitration last year when he signed a one-year, $2.35 million contract. The 30-year-old batted .258/.310/.459 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs in 53 games last season. He suffered a season-ending right knee injury in June that required surgery to repair tears in both the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments.
Whether he goes to a hearing or not, the 28-year-old Hoover will likely receive a significant raise from the $535,000 he made in 2015. Last season, Hoover was 8-2 with a 2.94 ERA in 67 appearances as he established himself as the Reds' eighth-inning setup man. Over 64 1/3 innings, he walked 31, struck out 52 and posted a 1.17 WHIP. Nine of his 12 inherited runners were left stranded. Hoover is hoping to become the team's closer in 2016 to replace Aroldis Chapman, who was traded to the Yankees.