How much will Hamels earn?

If you have already read the paper today, you already know that today is the first day that major leaguers can file for arbitration. What you don't know - and what nobody knows - is how the process will play out, particularly for the two Phillies who could be in line for the biggest raises. The Ryan Howard situation is well-documented. Last year, he set a record for a first-year arbitration-eligible player, earning $10 million after winning his case against the Phillies, who had sought to pay him $7 million. This year, he is likely in line for another big raise.

But the situation I am more interested in is that of lefthander Cole Hamels. Hamels was pretty upset last season when the Phillies renewed his contract at $500,000. I talked to his agent yesterday, who said that there are no hard feelings between the two sides. But John Boggs also said the Phillies and Hamels have not yet had any discussions about a potential long-term deal, and he didn't really have a good feeling on the likelihood of such a contract.

Under Pat Gillick, the Phillies were hesitant to give pitchers anything more than a three-year deal. Hamels still has four more seasons under club control. He is also coming off a year in which he pitched a career-high 227 1/3 innings during the regular season alone.

But Hamels is also coming off a year in which he established himself as one of the true dominant starters in the game. He won the NLCS MVP and the World Series MVP and led the National League in innings. In short, he is in line for a big raise.

The question: how big?

There are two players to zero in on when trying to compare Hamels' situation. The one name Boggs mentioned was Dontrelle Willis, who agreed to a one-year, $4.35 million deal with the Marlins in January of 200.

Another name to keep an eye on is Chien Ming-Wang, who lost his arbitration case last year and earned $4 million from the Yankees.

Using those two players as bench marks, an educated guess would put Hamels' salary above both numbers. While Willis had more wins and a lower ERA at the time of his deal, Hamels has more strikeouts in fewer innings, plus a World Series MVP. You also have to factor in the rise in salaries over the past three years, and the fact that Hamels' 2008 salary of $500,000 was higher than either Willis' or Wang's was the year before their arbitration deal.

Here are the career numbers of the three pitchers at the time of their deals:

Willis in 2005: 46-27, 3.27 ERA, 451 SO, 594 IP
Hamels in 2008: 38-23, 3.43 ERA, 518 SO, 543 IP
Wang   in 2007: 46-18, 3.74 ERA, 227 SO, 533 2/3 IP

If I had to guess, I'd put Hamels salary in the $5 million range next season.

Over the next few days, we'll take a look at the cases of each of the Phillies' arbitration eligible and try to forecast what they'll be looking for in terms of salary.