Our next look at Dodgers eligible for salary arbitration brings us to James Loney, the first baseman who forged an interesting path in 2011. In the first half of the season, Loney looked like he was following the Casey Kotchman path to a tee:
- Kotchman was drafted in the first round (13th overall) in 2001, never developed the power he was once thought to have, and hit .217/.280/.336 with nine home runs in 125 games in roughly his fifth year of service time, in 2010.
- Loney was drafted in the first round (19th overall) in 2002, never developed the power he was once thought to have, and hit .268/.311/.342 with four home runs in 91 games in his fifth year of service time, in 2011.
Kotchman, a year after making just over $3.5 million with Seattle, was forced to take a minor league deal in 2011 with Tampa Bay and had a nice bounceback year, hitting .306/.378/.422 in 146 games for a measly $750,000. Loney, making $4.875 million in 2011, was headed straight down that path to non-tenderville, but then something clicked.
Whether it was the change in hitting coaches from Jeff Pentland toon July 20, or whether the looming reality of a massive paycut sparked a turnaround, or whether the occasional day off helped, Loney was a different hitter after the All-Star break. Loney hit .320/.380/.534 with 18 doubles and eight home runs in 67 games after the break, and ended with season numbers pretty much in line with his last three seasons, if not better.
So here we are, with Loney eligible for salary arbitration again, with five years, 12 days of service time. With first basemen, it's tough to find true comps for Loney because the best hitters at first base are among the best hitters in baseball, and many end up signing long-term extensions or are simply too productive and/or pricy to compare to Loney.
I found three first baseman roughly comparable to Loney, and here are their career numbers at a similar service time to Loney:
|Player||Thru||Svc Time||G||PA||2B||HR||Runs||RBI||BA/OBP/SLG||OPS||OPS+||bWAR||fWAR||Salaryn-1||Salaryn||% Inc.|
I cheated a bit with Overbay, as he signed a four-year deal before the 2007 season, and his salary for 2007 was only $400,000 so I added his $3.8 million signing bonus and counted that for 2007, too. Overbay is the only one of the three comparable players who signed a multi-year deal.
Here's a look at the four first basemen in their launch seasons:
If we just look at these three comps for Loney and their percentage increase in salary, a 38.1% raise for Loney would be $6.75 million while a 71.4% increase would be about $8.35 million. Last year I guessed a 38.7% raise for Loney and that turned out to be far too low. Loney got a 57.3% raise in 2011 and followed that up with arguably a better season than he had in 2010.
I'm revising my guess for James Loney to make $7.25 million in 2012. What's your guess?