The Phillies amicably avoided arbitration with one outfielder Friday and signed another who could bring speed to the bench.
Hunter Pence agreed to a one-year, $10.4 million contract for 2012, settling at the midpoint between salary figures the two sides submitted for a potential arbitration hearing. And Juan Pierre, a 12-year veteran, signed a minor-league contract with the Phillies for a chance to make the team in spring training.
Pence's signing was guaranteed; the question was whether the Phillies would buy out his final two years of arbitration or just go year-to-year. Pence earned $6.9 million in 2011 after winning an arbitration hearing against Houston. This year, the Phillies were able to avoid an agreement on those terms.
With Pence in the fold, the Phillies have no remaining arbitration-eligible players. Their payroll, as recognized by Major League Baseball, projects to approximately $179 million.
The Phillies' goal is to avoid paying luxury tax in 2012. The team is hovering at the $178 million threshold, so they have spent this month bottom-feeding in a market teeming with unsigned veteran bats.
That led to Pierre's signing, which comes with little risk. Pierre will go to camp with a shot at the final spot on the bench created by Ryan Howard's temporary absence from the roster. Pierre's top competition figures to be another former White Sox speedster, Scott Podsednik.
Pierre, 34, made $8.5 million in 2011, the final year of a five-year, $44 million contract he signed in 2007. Last season, he batted .279 with just a .657 OPS in 711 plate appearances for Chicago. Pierre is a low on-base percentage player who rarely strikes out. His defense and speed have declined, but the Phillies took a cheap flier on a player who missed only six games in the previous two seasons combined. As a bench player instead of an everyday outfielder, Pierre could give value.
The Phillies lack a fifth outfielder following the trade of Ben Francisco, but that spot is likely only temporary on a completely revamped bench. Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton, Laynce Nix, Brian Schneider, and Michael Martinez figure have spots ahead of a fifth outfielder.
Podsednik, who turns 36 in March, played briefly in the minors for the Phillies last season but was sidelined with foot injuries. He was re-signed this winter and invited to spring training as a nonroster player.