Matt Gelb still here while Andy enjoys some vacation...
The headlining news from players and teams exchanging arbitration figures on Tuesday centered mostly around San Francisco ace Tim Lincecum. The two-time Cy Young award winner is seeking $13 million. The Giants are offering $8 million.
Lincecum is looking to surpass the record for highest salary ever awarded in arbitration -- $10 million.
And so is Joe Blanton.
Yes, that's right. Joe Blanton. He of the 12-8 record and a 4.05 ERA in 2009. He who is slotted as the Phillies' third starter. Not to say those numbers are anything to scoff at, but last time we checked, Blanton hasn't won a Cy Young. Or even appeared in an All-Star game.
Blanton is asking for $10.25 million. The Phillies are offering $7.5 million.
Some perspective: Cliff Lee will make $9 million in 2010 for Seattle. The Phillies will pay Roy Halladay $10 million in 2010. (Halladay's actual salary is $16 million but Toronto is paying $6 million of it this season.) Also facing arbitration, Detroit ace Justin Verlander is asking for $9.5 million. Verlander won 19 games last season and finished third in the American League Cy Young voting...
OK, you get the picture.
Blanton's request of $10.25 million is shocking, considering precedent. Here's why: There can't be any possible way that Blanton's people would expect to win a case should it go to arbitration.
In the last four years, only four pitchers have asked for more money than Blanton during the exchange of figures. They are: Lincecum (2010), Felix Hernandez (2010), Francisco Rodriguez (2008) and Carlos Zambrano (2007). Zambrano settled his case just before the scheduled hearing. Rodriguez lost his case, but was still awarded $10 million, which was what the Angels had offered. That tied the record for largest salary award in arbitration.
Of course, Rodriguez shares that record with Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard along with Alfonso Soriano*. All three were awarded $10 million. Howard won his case; Soriano lost his. Again, we're talking about top-flight players here. Blanton doesn't fit that bill.
*There is an interesting connection in all of this. Blanton's agent is Casey Close, who also represents Howard. Close helped Howard win that record $10 million in 2008. Is he looking to one-up that?
How the Phillies approach this will be interesting. The Phillies have taken a player to arbitration just three times since 1996 -- Howard (2008), Travis Lee (2001) and Willie Banks (1996) -- and the franchise has shown a willingness to avoid the hearing at all costs. But after seeing Blanton's demand, will the front office want to play hardball with the pitcher?
Typically, teams will settle around the midpoint of the exchanged figures before the case can go to arbitration. That would put Blanton's 2010 salary at $8.875 million. That would be a 63 percent raise from Blanton's 2009 salary of $5.454 million.
Does he deserve a 63 percent raise? Last season was probably Blanton's third best in the majors. He put up better numbers in 2005 and 2007. He also won 16 games in 2006.
Can the Phillies settle below the midpoint? Sure. The midpoint is just an unwritten guideline that most deals follow. But what if the Phillies let the case go to arbitration? The panel of three arbitrators must pick either of the two figures -- $10.25 million or $7.5 million. There is no in between. Either the player wins or the team wins.
In this instance, the Phillies would have to be fairly confident in their case.