All players who intend to go to a hearing must exchange figures with their respective teams by Tuesday. Hearings before a panel of three arbitrators will be scheduled anytime from Feb. 1-21. In salary arbitration, the player presents the higher figure and the club the lower figure.
All eyes again will be on left-handed-slugging first baseman Howard, who will use the system for unsigned players mostly with three to five years of experience to generate another huge raise.Howard filed last year for the first time and was awarded $10 million, matching an arbitration record. Since then, he led the Majors in homers (48) and RBIs (146) and the Phillies won the World Series for the second time in the 126-year history of the franchise. Howard was the third player to earn $10 million through arbitration, although the other two were actually losers -- closer Francisco Rodriguez, then with the Angels and now a Met, did it last year, and outfielder Alfonso Soriano, then with the Nationals and now a Cub, came up on the wrong end in 2006, when he asked for $12 million. Since 1974, when the arbitration system was collectively bargained, only 12 percent of the filings have gone to a full hearing, including eight last year, six of them won by the clubs. Pitcher Oliver Perez was the only other player besides Howard to succeed, getting $6.5 million from the Mets. In the other cases, the two sides agreed to a contract before their hearing was held.
In 2008, of the 110 players who filed, only 48 actually exchanged figures with their respective clubs, and 40 of those were settled without a hearing.Of those that did go to a hearing, K-Rod sought $12.5 million and was awarded the $10 million presented by the Angels. Howard asked for $10 million while the Phillies wanted to pay him $7 million. In any event, it was a huge raise for Howard, who earned $900,000 in 2007. Hamels, by the way, who was 14-10 with a 3.09 ERA, earned $500,000 last season. Pitcher Chien-Ming Wang lost to the Yankees last year when he was awarded $4 million rather than his request of $4.6 million after winning 19 games in 2007 for the second consecutive season. This time, coming off a foot injury that cost Wang the last three months of the 2008 season, he chose to come to terms with the Yankees, signing a one-year, $5 million deal just before Christmas. Wang earned $489,500 in 2007. On the Yankees, right fielder Xavier Nady and center fielder Melky Cabrera filed for arbitration. It's always a crap shoot in salary arbitration. The clubs seem to have found the right combination and have won most of the cases in recent years, although last year, according to Maury Brown of the Biz of Baseball, the average salary of all 110 players who filed jumped 106 percent from $1.38 million to $3.04 million. And for the 48 players who actually exchanged figures with their clubs, that increase was 220 percent. Of the eight players who actually went to arbitration last year, five were free agents this offseason. Four have signed with other clubs, including infielder Felipe Lopez (Diamondbacks), infielder Mark Loretta (Dodgers), K-Rod and Brian Fuentes (Angels). Only Perez remains on the market.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.