It’s filing time.
Players can file for arbitration starting today, and seven Phillies are eligible to make more in 2009 through this process (Eric Bruntlett and Clay Condrey have already agreed to extensions). The heavy seven are Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Ryan Madson, Greg Dobbs, Joe Blanton and Chad Durbin. And each of the seven can write his case on why he deserves the money he seeks.
The lower three (Dobbs, Blanton, Durbin) can probably be re-signed for an agreed-upon amount. But the higher five can strongly stump for long-term contracts. Madson, Werth and Victorino are expecting significant raises in 2009, so the Phils might be wise to come to an agreement with them, possibly resulting in a long-term deal for at least one of them. But Howard and Hamels are the real question marks – their gifted abilities and performance show they deserve big money. And as we saw last year, Howard won’t go down without a fight, if at all. He won $10M in the most significant arbitration victory in baseball history last year.
Howard will get a raise somehow. I stand by my claim, however, that it shouldn’t be via a long-term deal. Howard hasn’t shown to be a consistent three-dimensional player; in fact, he’s more of a 1.5-dimensional player most of the time. Yes, he drives in runs like nobody else, but the realistic consequences of a big, non-versatile power hitter make him a case for yearly raises. He’ll likely take the Phils back to war, and he could easily win something like $16M this season.
Hamels, however, completely deserves a long-term deal. He met all the necessary criteria in 2008, staying healthy, posting ace numbers and showing no sign of a young slump. He then reached new territory by becoming a big-game pitcher, winning both the NLCS and World Series MVPs. There’s little doubt Hamels can’t duplicate his already great success. Factor in his age (25) and the fact that pitchers aren’t getting big money right now, and locking Hamels up to a long-term deal is a no-brainer.
For the next week or so, Ruben Amaro Jr. will have a lot of decisions to make, but it isn’t at complex at it seems. Here’s hoping he sees the simplicity through the trees.