The gap between the Phillies and slugger Ryan Howard is bigger this year than it was last year, when the two sides took their $3 million difference into the court room. There, Howard was awarded a record $10 million. This year, he is seeking $18 million, which would make him among the game's highest paid players.
The request is a monster. Not only is it the third-highest arbitration request ever (behind Roger Clemens' $22 million in 2005 and Derek Jeter's $18.5 million in 2001), it would make him among the highest-paid players in the game - at least in terms of 2009 salary - period.
An interesting note: Jeter was represented in 2001 by Casey Close, who is also Howard's agent.
If Howard wins, he will earn the second-largest annual salary amongst major league first baseman, behind only the Yankees Mark Teixeira, whose average annual salary is $22.5 million. Howard would earn more annually than Albert Pujols ($14.285).
The Phillies are offering $14 million. There is little optimism at this point within the club that it will be able to avoid another arbitration hearing with Howard.
According to the Associated Press' salary database, only five players earned more than $18 million last season: Alex Rodriguez ($28 million), Jason Giambi ($23.4 million), Derek Jeter ($18.929 million) and Carlos Beltran ($18.62 million).
Ten players currently have contracts whose average annual value is $18 million or greater:
Alex Rodriguez, NYY 2008-17 $27,500,000
CC Sabathia, NYY 2009-15 $23,000,000
Johan Santana, NYM 2008-13 $22,916,667
Miguel Cabrera, Det 2008-15 $19,037,500
Derek Jeter, NYY 2001-10 $18,900,000
Carlos Zambrano, Cubs 2008-12 $18,300,000
Andruw Jones, LAD 2008-09 $18,100,000
Vernon Wells, Tor 2008-14 $18,000,000
Barry Zito, SF 2007-13 $18,000,000
Ichiro Suzuki, Sea 2008-12 $18,000,000
Torri Hunter, LAA 2008012 $18,000,000
UPDATED: After doing some research, I've added Torri Hunter to the list, who signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the Angels last offseason. Not sure why he wasn't on the AP list.
Source: Associated Press
More arbitration fun:
Joe Blanton is in the fold at one year and $5.475 million.
That means, besides Howard, only two arbitration-eligible Phillies remain unsigned: right fielder Jayson Werth and righthander Chad Durbin.
Durbin should be a relatively low-maintenance process, and the Phillies don't seem too concerned that Werth's contract will drag out.