The Big Reveal: Projecting Tomorrow's Arbitration Exchange

Catcher Carlos Ruiz was one of four Phillies players to file for salary arbitration. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Tomorrow is "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" day in Major League Baseball, when arbitration figures are exchanged. A quick breakdown of the process: Players with three years of Major League Service are arbitration eligible, meaning their salary is decided based on their service time and production. Players who have significantly more service time than their peer group in their first two years in the majors are also eligible for arbitration. They are known as "Super Twos." The Phillies do not have any Super Twos this year.

Over the past two weeks, the players eligible for arbitration have filed with the MLBPA. In this filing, they request a specific salary figure. In a separate filing, that player's team sets the salary they'd like to pay that player. Tomorrow, the two sides exchange figures. Usually, the player and club find some sort of middle ground -- often, then exact middle -- before arbitration hearings begin in late January. The last Phillies player to go to arbitration was Ryan Howard two years ago. Before that, the most recent Phillie to go to arbitration was Travis Lee.

Looking back on arbitration cases from this year and the past couple, we can get an idea of what kind of salary the Phillies will wind up doling out to their four arbitration-eligible players.

Here are out projections of how the process will play out:

1. Carlos Ruiz
2009 salary: $0.475 million
Service: 3.069 years
2009 stats: 379 PA, .255/.337, .780 OPS, 9 HR, 43 RBI
Career stats: 1,259 PA, .246/.337, .716 OPS, 22 HR, 138 RBI

ANALYSIS: Most comparable to Ruiz is Rays catcher Dioner Navarro, who last season received a raise from $0.432 million to $2.1 million, which was $400,000 less than he had asked for (the dispute went to arbitration). Navarro, who had 3.103 years of service at the time, was coming off a 2008 season in which he hit .295/.349 with a .757 OPS. He also had a solid postseason, hitting .293 with a .339 OBP in 16 games. In addition to his service time, his career numbers to that point (.263/.327, 703 OPS, 25 HR, 141 RBI) were similar to Ruiz's, while his 2008 salary was a tad less ($0.432 million).

Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero, who recently avoided arbitration by agreeing to a 1 year, $2.0 million contract, is another comparable. His career .776 OPS is higher than Ruiz's, but Ruiz has logged roughly 300 more plate appearances in his career while posting a 3.82 staff ERA in 2008 and a 4.00 ERA in 2009. Montero, meanwhile, posted a 4.56 staff ERA in 2008 and a 4.10 mark in 2009.

I'd expect the Phillies to try to nab Ruiz for a salary more in line with Montero, while Ruiz and his representation will likely push for a sum more in line with the three-year, $8.3 million contract Chris Ianetta signed with the Rockies this offseason (an average of $2.77 million per year).

PREDICTED ASK: $2.50 million
PREDICTED OFFER: $2.00 million
PREDICTED SETTLE: 1 year, $2.25 million

2. Shane Victorino
2009 salary: $3.125 million
Service: 4.092 years
2009 stats: 694 PA, .292/.358, .803 OPS, 10 HR, 62 RBI, 13 3B, 25/33 SB, 102 RS
Career stats: .284/.347, .774 OPS, 44 HR, 224 RBI, 32 3B, 109/137 SB

ANALYSIS: I figure the ceiling on Victorino is right around $7.0 million, since that is what Kevin Youkilis received from the Red Sox last year in the first year of a four-year, $41.125 contract extension he signed with Boston. Youkilis had similar service time, but he was coming off a 2008 season in which he hit .312/.390 with a .958 OPS, 29 home runs and 115 RBI. He'd posted an OBP of at least .380 and an OPS of at least .810 in each of his first three full seasons in the big leagues.

I don't expect Victorino to sign a contract extension. The glut of outfielders in their system, including newly-acquired Tyson Gillies, makes me think the Phillies are willing to go year-to-year with him. And the acquisition of Placido Polanco makes me think they aren't sold on Victorino as a top-of-the-order hitter.

Victorino's career numbers are roughly more in line with Xavier Nady, who received a bump from $3.35 million to $6.5 million last season albeit with two more years of experience. But Victorino also has two Gold Gloves to his credit. 

I think the Victorino case will be the most interesting of the offseason, and I would not be surprised if it is the only one of the four cases to actually reach the arbitration panel.

I'd expect Victorino's representation to look for somewhere around $7.0 million, and I'd expect the Phillies to offer much less.

PREDICTED ASK: $7.0 million
PREDICTED OFFER: $6.0 million
PREDICTED SETTLE: Arbitration, or 1 year, $6.65 million

3. Chad Durbin
2009 salary: $1.635 million
Service: 5.102 years
2009 stats: 59 G, 69.2 IP, 4.39 ERA, 1.478 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, 6.1 BB/9
Career stats: 244 G, 75 GS, 5.19 ERA, 1.522 WHIP, 5.6 K/9, 4.0 BB/9

ANALYSIS: There was some question about whether the Phillies would even tender Durbin a contract, since he is likely in like for another decent bump from the $1.635 million he earned last year. Durbin has been a valuable member of the staff for the last two seasons -- He's been a workhorse, and his versatility had enabled the Phillies to use him anywhere from multiple innings situations to spot duty in the eighth inning when guys like Ryan Madson have been unavailable.

I'd expect Durbin to eventually to agree to a contract in line with the one-year, $2.1 million deal that Grant Balfour signed with the Rays this offseason. Balfour has similar service time (5.099 years) and has had a similar two-year stretch as Durbin.

PREDICTED ASK: $2.5 million
PREDICTED OFFER: $2.0 million
PREDICTED SETTLE: 1 year, $2.25 million

4. Joe Blanton
2009 salary: $5.475 million
Service: 5.016 years
2009 stats: 31 GS, 12-8, 4.05 ERA, 1.316 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 2.7 BB/9
Career stats: 162 GS, 63-54, 4.21 ERA, 1.331 WHIP, 5.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9

ANALYSIS: We spent a considerable amount of time breaking down Blanton's situation back in early-November after the World Series. In the interest of time, I'll simply cut and paste what I wrote back then:

Following the 2006 season, lefthander Doug Davis entered arbitration with 5 years, 138 days of services. Blanton has 5 years, 16 days of service. Davis went 11-11 with a 4.91 ERA for the Brewers in 2006, and had 33-33 with 3.84 and 3.39 ERAs the two years before.

At the time Davis was 62-63 with a 4.35 ERA, 1.467 WHIP in 1,089 innings pitched. Blanton is 63-54 with a 4.21 ERA, 1.331 WHIP in 1,026.2 innings.

In Davis' case, the Diamondbacks offered $5.25 million, Davis asked $7.5, and they agreed on a 3-year, $22 million deal.

After 2007, Oliver Perez (4.43 ERA, 1.430 WHIP, 804.1 IP, 5.034 years of service) was awarded $6.5 million. The same offseason, Nate Robertson (4.60 ERA, 1.411 WHIP, 832.2 IP, 4.065 years of service) signed a three-year, $21.25 million deal with the Tigers. Last year, Erik Bedard (3.81 ERA, 1.337 WHIP, 739 IP, 5.171 years of service) agreed to a $7.75 million contract with the Mariners after making $7 million the year before.

Granted, all four of these pitchers are lefties, on which there is more of a premium. And Bedard and Robinson spent their careers in the hitting-friendly American League.

But given Blanton's consistent production, durability, salary, and service time, the Phillies likely figure that Blanton will be in line to receivea salary of at least $6.5 million, and perhaps even higher.

PREDICTED ASK: $7.75 million
PREDICTED OFFER: $7.0 million
PREDICTED SETTLE: 1 year, $7.35 million