Arbitration-seekers include big names
Stars include Phils' Howard, Hamels, Sox's Papelbon, Brewers' Fielder
Major League Baseball's 10-day salary arbitration filing period closed on Thursday and 111 players filed, although the Red Sox have agreed to sign one player on the list -- first baseman Kevin Youkilis -- to a four-year deal worth about $40 million, pending a physical.The defending World Series-winning Phillies lead the pack with eight players who filed, including last year's Major League home run and RBI champion, Ryan Howard, and left-hander Cole Hamels, the Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series and World Series. Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, who led the National League with 50 homers in 2007 and hit 34 more in 2008 for the Wild Card-winning Brewers, is another big name that filed. The Brewers have renewed the first baseman two years in a row and he earned $670,000 last season. "I'm not happy about it at all, the fact that they've renewed me two years in a row now," Fielder said last year at the time of the renewal. "There are a lot of guys with the same amount of time I have who have done a lot less than me and are getting paid a lot more. But my time is going to come and it's coming quick, too." The Rockies, Marlins, Mets, Pirates and Blue Jays each had six filers. The Angels had five, including starter Ervin Santana. The Dodgers had four, including closer Jonathan Broxton, outfielder Andre Ethier and All-Star catcher Russell Martin. The Red Sox still have to figure out how to sign closer Jonathan Papelbon, who saved 41 games last year and earned $775,000.
All players who intend to go to a hearing must exchange figures with their respective teams by Tuesday. Hearings before a panel of three arbitrators will be scheduled anytime from Feb. 1-21. In salary arbitration, the player presents the higher figure and the club the lower figure.
All eyes again will be on left-handed-slugging first baseman Howard, who will use the system for unsigned players mostly with three to five years of experience to generate another huge raise.Howard filed last year for the first time and was awarded $10 million, matching an arbitration record. Since then, he led the Majors in homers (48) and RBIs (146) and the Phillies won the World Series for the second time in the 126-year history of the franchise. Howard was the third player to earn $10 million through arbitration, although the other two were actually losers -- closer Francisco Rodriguez, then with the Angels and now a Met, did it last year, and outfielder Alfonso Soriano, then with the Nationals and now a Cub, came up on the wrong end in 2006, when he asked for $12 million. Since 1974, when the arbitration system was collectively bargained, only 12 percent of the filings have gone to a full hearing, including eight last year, six of them won by the clubs. Pitcher Oliver Perez was the only other player besides Howard to succeed, getting $6.5 million from the Mets. In the other cases, the two sides agreed to a contract before their hearing was held.
In 2008, of the 110 players who filed, only 48 actually exchanged figures with their respective clubs, and 40 of those were settled without a hearing.Of those that did go to a hearing, K-Rod sought $12.5 million and was awarded the $10 million presented by the Angels. Howard asked for $10 million while the Phillies wanted to pay him $7 million. In any event, it was a huge raise for Howard, who earned $900,000 in 2007. Hamels, by the way, who was 14-10 with a 3.09 ERA, earned $500,000 last season. Pitcher Chien-Ming Wang lost to the Yankees last year when he was awarded $4 million rather than his request of $4.6 million after winning 19 games in 2007 for the second consecutive season. This time, coming off a foot injury that cost Wang the last three months of the 2008 season, he chose to come to terms with the Yankees, signing a one-year, $5 million deal just before Christmas. Wang earned $489,500 in 2007. On the Yankees, right fielder Xavier Nady and center fielder Melky Cabrera filed for arbitration. It's always a crap shoot in salary arbitration. The clubs seem to have found the right combination and have won most of the cases in recent years, although last year, according to Maury Brown of the Biz of Baseball, the average salary of all 110 players who filed jumped 106 percent from $1.38 million to $3.04 million. And for the 48 players who actually exchanged figures with their clubs, that increase was 220 percent. Of the eight players who actually went to arbitration last year, five were free agents this offseason. Four have signed with other clubs, including infielder Felipe Lopez (Diamondbacks), infielder Mark Loretta (Dodgers), K-Rod and Brian Fuentes (Angels). Only Perez remains on the market.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.