Salary Arbitration-Eligible Dodgers: Chad Billingsley

Chad Billingsley is arbitration eligible through the 2012 season.

With salary arbitration time nearly upon us, the Dodgers have three players eligible: Hong-Chih Kuo, Chad Billingsley, and James Loney. Most likely, these three players will work out deals somewhere near the January 18 deadline to exchange salary figures. In trying to estimate the salaries these players will earn, earlier this week I looked at Kuo. Today, we turn our attention to Billingsley.

Last January, I looked at Billingsley compared to his peers through three years of service time, and his market was pretty much set near the $3.85 million deal he eventually signed. Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander had breakout seasons in their fourth year, and parlayed that into big deals. Hernandez finished second in the Cy Young balloting, and got a five-year, $78 million deal, while Verlander got an $80 million, five-year deal after finishing third in the Cy Young voting.

Billingsley had a good 2010 (12-11, 3.57 ERA, 107 ERA+, 3.07 FIP, 3.81 xFIP in 191 2/3 innings), but nowhere near Verlander or Hernandez in their fourth years, so let's use their fifth-year salaries as the forbidden zone for Billingsley, a salary higher than he is likely to receive. Hernandez got $6.5 million in his fifth season, while Verlander got $6.75 million.

Last winter there were two pitchers reasonably similar to Billingsley who were eligible for arbitration and hadn't yet signed a long-term contract:

Pitcher Years Svc Time IP W-L HR/9 BB/9 K/9 ERA ERA+ FIP Salary
Edwin Jackson 2003-09 4.070 670.0 38-39 1.1 4.0 6.3 4.66 96 4.70 $4.6 million*
Wandy Rodriguez 2005-09 4.024 790.0 51-52 1.1 3.2 7.5 4.33 99 4.17 $5 million
Chad Billingsley
2006-10 4.110 825.2 59-41 0.7 3.9 8.2 3.55 116 3.68 ???

*Jackson made $4.2 million in the first year of a two-year, $13.35 million deal, and I included half of his $800,000 signing bonus in his 2010 salary.

The problem with these comps is that they started from a lower base point than Billingsley's $3.85 million in 2010. Jackson made $2.2 million in his fourth season, while Rodriguez made $2.6 million in his fourth season. One would think $5 million is the absolute low point for Billingsley, and even that seems too low when comparing Bills to Wandy in their careers.

Looking back to last January, two other Billingsley comps through three seasons who signed long-term deals by this point are still comparable to him through four years:

Pitcher Years Svc Time IP W-L HR/9 BB/9 K/9 ERA ERA+ FIP Salary
Jon Lester
2006-10 4.075 766.0 61-25 0.8 3.8 8.4 3.55 130 3.60 $5.75 million
Ervin Santana
2005-09 4.104 846.1 59-45 1.2 2.9 7.3 4.52 98 4.32 $6 million
Chad Billingsley
2006-10 4.110 825.2 59-41 0.7 3.9 8.2 3.55 116 3.68 ???

These kind of comps are always tricky because they are multi-year contracts, so there is usually some sort of discount given for long-term security. Lester signed his deal after just two years of service time, and boy has he lived up to the contract, and then some. But, these deals, like the Ricky Nolasco extension last month, fit the mold for Billingsley.

Pitcher Year n-1 Salary Year n Salary
Santana $3.8 million $6 million
Nolasco $3.8 million $6 million
Lester $3.75 million $5.75 million
Billingsley      $3.85 million ???

After looking at this pattern, I'm revising my prediction for Billingsley, and now project him to make $6 million in 2011.

Again, thanks to the good people at Cot's Baseball Contracts and Baseball-Reference.

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