ESPN's Keith Law has some good info up on his personal blog. I have always wondered about this stuff. In the post, Law discusses how little sense it makes for the Phillies to pay Ryan Howard more than his service time calls for. But also in the comments Law explains which players Howard's agent can compare him to for an arbitration hearing.
For comparison purposes, a player may be compared to players in the same “service class” in the current year or in prior years, and third- and fourth-time eligibles may be compared to free agents who have signed in the current year or in prior years. Single-year salaries are more powerful comparisons than multi-year deals, since the individual salaries within a multi-year deal may be skewed due to bonuses, backloading, or other factors.
Law notes that Howard's comp could be Miguel Cabrera, who made $7.4MM last year. Howard logically deserves more than that based on a stat comparison, making the Phillies' $7MM submission seem low.
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