DENVER -- Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, coming off a stellar 2015 season and a unique beginning to his career, reached a one-year, $5 million contract to avoid arbitration on Friday.
The Rockies did not come to an agreement with center fielder Charlie Blackmon or second baseman DJ LeMahieu by Friday's deadline for teams to settle on 2016 contracts with arbitration-eligible players before exchanging proposed salary figures. Blackmon filed for a $3.7 million salary for '16, while the club offered $2.9 million. LeMahieu requested $3.3 million against the team's $2.8 million offer.
Hearings will be scheduled for February. If the team and the players don't reach an agreement before the hearing, the case will be put before a three-member arbitration panel, which will assign the player either his request or the club offer.
Arenado, who turns 25 on April 16, tied Washington's Bryce Harper for the National League lead in home runs with 42 and led the Majors with 130 RBIs. He also won an NL Gold Glove Award, the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award and a Fielding Bible Award. Arenado is the only third baseman in NL history to earn Gold Glove Awards in his first three full seasons; the late Frank Malzone accomplished the feat for the Red Sox from 1957-59.
The union of superb play on offense and defense led to the accolades and Arenado's first All-Star Game appearance.
"We always felt that he's going to be a dynamic offensive player," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said in a recent interview. "To be honest with you, I didn't know the power was going to be what it was this quickly. ... This is an elite player on both sides of the ball and he has the makeup to be great, wants to be great, works to be great every day, wants to play every inning of 162 games. He's everything you could ever want in a player."
The figure, first reported by MLB Network, came shy of an MLB Trade Rumors projection of $6.6 million. However, Matt Swartz, who designed an arbitration model exclusively for the site, acknowledged in a posting Thursday that he could hit or miss because Arenado's case is unique.
Arenado was the first player to enter arbitration off a 40-homer season since the Phillies' Ryan Howard eight years ago. Howard won his case and was awarded $10 million, but as Swartz noted, Howard had 129 career homers at the time to Arenado's 70. Swartz also said it was difficult finding similar offensive players at Arenado's position, and his defense was another factor that made a prediction difficult.
It was the first of four seasons of arbitration eligibility for Arenado, who has two years, 155 days' Major League service time -- less than the usual three years to qualify for arbitration but enough to qualify as a Super Two (top 22 percent of players between two and three years).
The Rockies previously avoided arbitration with righty relief pitcher Adam Ottavino by reaching a three-year, $10.4 million deal, and by reaching one-year contracts with right-handed pitcher Jordan Lyles ($2.975 million) and outfielder Brandon Barnes ($1 million, with $500,000 available in performance bonuses).
The club parted ways with four other players who would have been eligible for arbitration: catcher Michael McKenry, who has signed a Minor League deal with the Rangers; righty reliever John Axford, who signed with the Athletics for two years and $10 million; lefty reliever Rex Brothers, who was traded to the Cubs; and catcher-first baseman Wilin Rosario, who is unsigned.