In a recent blog post, Jayson Stark notes that everybody should be paying close attention to the Ryan Howard arbitration case and speculates that Howard and the Phillies are much farther apart that the $3MM difference in their arbitration numbers. In fact, the distance between the two sides can be measured as the difference between Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez.
The Phillies renewed Howard at $900,000 last year--precisely the same amount Pujols got from the Cardinals the year before he was eligible for arbitration. Next up, the Phillies will no doubt offer Howard a long-term deal that mirrors the seven-year, $100 million contract Pujols signed with the Cardinals in his first year of arbitration eligibility.
That might sound reasonable from afar. But there is no chance --zero--that the reaction to that offer...is going to sound anything like: Where do we sign?
A-Rod is more what this particular family has in mind.
The $7MM arbitration figure offered by the Phillies is the same amount Pujols made in the first year of his contract extension (his first arbitration-eligible season). The biggest argument against the Pujols comparison is that the Cardinals signed their young record-breaking slugger to a 7-year, $100MM contract in 2004, and there has been an explosion in baseball revenue in the last four years. The Phillies would argue that Howard's numbers, while historic, are not equal to what Pujols accomplished in his first three seasons. The Phillies appear to be trying to balance performance against inflation.
Stark does not go so far as to say that Howard is seeking $250MM, but does speculate that it would take seven years and at least $150MM. If Stark is right, and the two sides cannot work out an agreement prior to the arbitration hearing, this could get ugly.
By Cork Gaines
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