In some pre-spring-training bookkeeping, the Washington Nationals and Victor Robles agreed on a $2.325 million salary for 2023, meaning the team and the center fielder will not go to an arbitration hearing. While announcing this Monday afternoon, the Nationals also noted that Robles and the team agreed on a club option for 2024 that would pay him $3.3 million if exercised, according to a person familiar with the terms.
Arbitration hearings, being held throughout this month, can be messy. That one is being avoided here is a small bright spot in the ongoing Victor Robles saga. For the second straight spring, Robles and the Nationals engaged in a staring contest before Robles blinked on his initial ask. The 25-year-old filed for $2.6 million this year; the club countered at $2.3 million. The final result is a salary only $25,000 over the Nationals’ offer. The Associated Press first reported Robles’s salary for 2023 and the value of the club option.
Marginal disagreements such as this often show that a player and his team are not fully on the same page, as has been the case with Robles and Washington in recent years. Since the Nationals won the World Series in 2019, he has a .291 on-base percentage and a .306 slugging percentage. (In 2019, for reference, he slugged .419 and reached base in almost 33 percent of his plate appearances.) So with little to no production at the plate, his stellar defense — including a plus glove, plus arm and plus speed — has been his lone enticing skill.
When big league camp opens this month, he will be alongside Lane Thomas, Corey Dickerson, Alex Call, Stone Garrett and Joey Meneses in the outfield picture. More than likely, Robles will have every chance to start in center field, perhaps even to build his trade value ahead of the deadline in July.
Here’s how a club option works for an arbitration-eligible player (with a little over four years of major league service, Robles will fit that profile again next winter): If the Nationals want Robles back for 2024 and it appears he will earn more in arbitration, they can exercise the club option and retain him at a lower cost. If they decline the club option, he would still be arbitration-eligible, which would mean the front office would expect him to ultimately make less than the club option salary. And if they don’t wish to keep him, they can decline the club option and then non-tender him, as they did with pitcher Erick Fedde and slugger Luke Voit this offseason.