Salary Arbitration-Eligible Dodgers: James Loney

James Loney's salary will likely start with a 4 in 2011; will his slugging percentage?

Salary arbitration season is here, and the Dodgers have three players eligible this winter. We have already analyzed Hong-Chih Kuo and Chad Billingsley, which leaves us today with James Loney.

Loney made $3.1 million in 2010, his first year of arbitration eligibility. He has four years, 12 days of MLB service time. At first base, it's tough to find comps. In many cases, the best hitters at the position are among the best players in the game, and frankly have a production level that is higher than that of Loney.

Some guys who may have been comps through three seasons go in a different direction in year four. Carlos Pena hit 46 home runs off the scrap heap for Tampa Bay in 2007, his fourth season, and parlayed that into a three-year deal. Kevin Youkilis had a lower OPS+ through three years of service time (109) than did Loney (112), but in 2008 Youkilis hit .312/.390/.569 and he finished third in AL MVP voting. On the other end of the spectrum, Mike Jacobs and Loney were similar through three years, but he hit .228/.297/.401 in 2009 and was forced to sign a minor-league deal last year.

I found a few first basemen who were reasonably similar to Loney through four years. Here are their career numbers through four years:

First Baseman
Years Svc Time PA 2B HR Runs RBI BA/OBP/SLG OPS+ WAR Salary
Adam LaRoche 2004-07 4.000 2047 135 86 258 301 .273/.339/.490 112 5.3 $5 million
Lyle Overbay 2001-06 4.026 2235 153 61 268 280 .293/.372/.467 116 8.2 $4.2 million*
Casey Kotchman 2004-09 4.144 1871 101 40 195 233 .269/.337/.406 95 5.3 $3.5175 million
James Loney
2006-10 4.012 2436 125 55 267 353 .288/.348/.436 108 6.4 ???

*Overbay technically only made $400,000 in the first year of a four-year, $24 million deal, but he did get a $3.8 million signing bonus so I'm counting that as part of his salary in 2007.

Kotchman is technically on a different service level, since he was a Super Two, but given these disparate salaries, I want to look at Loney's comparable players in a different way. I will compare each player's fourth season and look at their percentage salary increase from one year to the next.

First Baseman
Year PA 2B HR Runs RBI BA/OBP/SLG OPS+ WAR Salaryn-1 Salaryn Increase
Adam LaRoche 2007 632 42 21 71 88 .272/.345/.458 109 2.5 $3.2m $5m 56.3%
Lyle Overbay 2006 640 46 22 82 92 .312/.372/.508 125 2.5 $2.525m $4.2m 66.3%
Casey Kotchman 2009 431 23 7 37 48 .269/.339/.382 90 1.0 $2.885m $3.5175m 21.9%
James Loney
2010 648 41 10 67 88 .267/.329/.395 99 1.1 $3.1m ?? ??

 

This doesn't exactly give us a clear picture of what to expect for Loney. Both LaRoche and Overbay got big increases, but they also had much better fourth seasons that did Loney. Loney's 2010 was much more in line with Kotchman's 2009. Kotchman only got a 21.9% raise from 2009 to 2010, but he was also coming off a season of only 431 PA. Let's give Loney a bigger raise than Kotchman, but not as hefty a raise as LaRoche or Overbay.

A 40% raise would be $4.34 million. Rounding, $4.3 million is my new guess for James Loney's salary in 2011.

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

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