This Day In Dodgers History: Orel Hershiser Takes Pay Cut Through Arbitration For 1987 Season

On February 7, 1987, Orel Hershiser signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for $800,000, taking a pay cut of 20% from his previous season’s salary. It was only the second time since MLB implemented the rule that a player takes less pay due to salary arbitration.

During the first Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB and the Players Association in 1968, the max salary reduction allowed was set at 20%, and and arbitration system was added to the league. It has since remained a key part of offseason business, despite some changes to the system over the years.

During the 1985 season, Hershiser pitched at an extremely high level, posting a 2.03 ERA, 2.73 FIP and 1.03 WHIP in 239.2 innings over 36 games (34 starts). That earned him a salary of $1 million for the 1986 season.

However, in 1986, Hershiser did not find as much success, pitching to a 3.85 ERA, 3.36 FIP and 1.29 WHIP over 231.1 innings. The significant drop in production led to the max-allowable pay cut through arbitration.

In the 1987 season, Hershiser rebounded a bit with a 3.06 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 231 innings that earned him a spot in the All-Star Game, but it was his 1988 season that made him baseball’s highest-paid player.

Hershiser pitched 267 innings in 1988 and ended the year with a 2.26 ERA, 3.18 FIP and 1.05 WHIP. He also led the Dodgers to a World Series championship, won the National League Cy Young Award, a Gold Glove and was named an All-Star for the second time.

Hershiser additionally led MLB in wins (23), complete games (15), shutouts (eight) and innings pitched, while earning NL Championship Series and World Series MVP honors for his playoff performances.

Following his remarkable season, Hershiser asked for a record $2.425 million through salary arbitration for his age-30 season, while the Dodgers countered at $2 million. Regardless of the outcome, the ace was set to set the record through arbitration, surpassing New York Yankees’ star Don Mattingly, who earned $1.975 million through arbitration in 1987.

Hershiser eventually agreed to a record three-year, $7.9 million contract extension. The terms of the deal included a $1.1 million signing bonus, and base salaries of $2.4 million in 1989, $1.6 million in 1990 and $2.8 million in 1991.

Because the signing bonus was divided equally over the three seasons, Hershiser’s salary in 1990 came out to $3,166,000, making him the first $3 million player in MLB history. Hershiser’s $2.76 million salary for the 1989 season also marked a new MLB record.

Orel Hershiser’s career with Dodgers

Hershiser was selected by the Dodgers in the 17th round of the 1979 MLB Draft and made his debut four years later in 1983. During his first full season in 1984, the right-hander finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, and the following year he placed third in Cy Young voting and 16th for MVP.

He made three consecutive All-Star appearances from 1987-89, and finished at least top four in the Cy Young voting in all three seasons. He also won a Silver Slugger Award in 1993.

Hershiser spent 13 of his 18 big league seasons with the Dodgers, going 135-107 with a 3.12 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 1.21 WHIP and 1,456 strikeouts over 2,180.2 innings pitched (353 games, 309 starts).

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