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It's Only Funny Until Someone Loses An Eye

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The Phillies incompetence is generally something every team can laugh about. Yeah, our team may be bad, but at least we haven't lost 10,000 games as a franchise. Sure the team might occasionally build themselves up to 88 wins and sneak into the playoffs, but the Phillies M.O. for the last decade or so previous years is have a nice core of players, fail to support any of them, win 84 games, miss the playoffs, then blame the good players for the team's failures. Heck, just look at this offseason for further proof the organization is hopeless. They entered the offseason with a great core and massive holes at third base and starting pitching. They decided to solve these problems with Pedro Feliz (who, sadly, is a big upgrade) and Chad Durbin. While praying the Mets go 0 for September worked out pretty well for them last year, this really isn't the recipe for sustained success.

While the Phillies being a bad organization usually is something to laugh about, their inability to do anything right has finally managed to effect every team, especially ones loaded with young talent. Because whoever is in charge of their arbitration hearings failed miserably, the bar for first year arbitration is now set at 10 million dollars thanks to Ryan Howard. This shattered Miguel Cabrera's previous record of 7.4 million set just the year before, and demolished Justin Morneau's 4.5 million dollar record as a super two player.

It shouldn't have been a monumental task to take down Howard in arbitration, all they had to do is make the case that Miguel Cabrera is a better player than Ryan Howard. Once you use park adjusted stats, it's not all that hard. Compare the two over the last three years.

Cabrera
OPS+EQA/VORP

2005 151.321/68.5
2006 159/.330/78.7
2007 150/.319/71.4

Howard

2005 133/.298/(Half season, not comparable)
2006 167/.337/.81.5
2007 144/.310/53.6

Howard barely beats out Cabrera in 2006, and gets slaughtered in the other two years. Granted, this is partly because Cabrera plays a position he has no business being at, but are you really going to use defense as a case for Ryan Howard? It also helps that at the age Cabrera got his then record payout, Howard was splitting time between Scranton and Reading.  Now, maybe the arbitrator was using Jayson Stark logic and making Babe Ruth Howard's first comparable instead of Mike Epstein, but this should have been fairly simple case to win, and the Phillies dropped the ball.

Because of this, there's no reason for Russell Martin, or any of our young players who are nearing arbitration, to accept a long term deal at any type of discount. Martin can easily point to     Howard's deal and ask for six million or so in arbitration. With four years of arbitration coming up, how much does Martin stand to make for 2009-2012?

We can answer this by looking at how much previous players have seen their salaries increase in second and third year arbitration from the historical results on the Biz of Baseball site. When looking at these numbers, I'm only going back to 1995 since something changed about arbitration after the strike, and significantly less players went before an arbiter.

Using these numbers the average player has seen their salary increase by 90.2% in their second year of arbitration. However, these numbers are influenced by small sample size. Only 22 second year arbitration cases have been resolved in the last 13 years, and three of them, Mariano Rivera, Joey Hamilton, and Alex Fernadez, saw their salaries more than quadruple from their case. If we take the outliers out of the equation, we end up with a more reasonable 68.3% increase in salary between first year arbitration and second year.

The jump from second to third isn't as large. In 21 cases since 1995 the average player saw his salary increase from 3.11 million to 4.66 million, a 49.8% increase. Unlike second year arbitration, there aren't any big outliers, with the biggest jump being Oliver Perez going from 2.33 million in 2007 to 6.5 million in 2008. Only two other players had their salaries double from second year to third year. Only one player has actually gone to fourth year arbitration since 1995, so there is no reliable stats on those cases.

If we assume that Martin asks for six million dollars his salary over the next four years if he follows the average goes 6/10.1/15.1/and let's just say 18. This adds up to four years, 49.2 million dollars. Still a very reasonable deal for one of the top players at his position, but compared to his peers he's getting massively overpaid. In those years, Brian McCann will get 24 million, while Joe Mauer, who has one more year of service time, will get 33 million in the last four years of his contract. Grady Sizemore, who I think we can agree is better than all of these guys will get 20.7 million over a comparable timespan.

All this adds up to is that Dodgers missed the boat in signing Martin to a long term contract. Ned Colletti says he offered an extension that Martin's agent turned down but unless it was at least in the ballpark of Mauer's deal, he wasn't really trying. The Ryan Howard ruling gives Martin zero incentive to sign for any less than forty million over the next five years, and he could probably ask for more. This is why you need to wrap up your young stars sooner, rather than later because you never know when the Phillies will come along and ruin everything for everyone.