Starting Pitchers Linked Entering 2011

Jeremy Guthrie, Matt Garza, Chad Billingsley and John Danks all went to arbitration for the first time before last season and all settled for contracts in the $3-4MM range. The four pitchers went to arbitration again this offseason and settled for contracts within the $5.75-$6.3MM range. A year from now, they will become points of reference for the class of pitchers just behind them (those currently entering their first seasons as arbitration eligible players). Here's a list of pitchers who could be compared to the quartet above after the 2011 season:

  • Mike Pelfrey$3.925MM in 2011 - Pelfrey already has a tremendous amount of big league experience and a fourth consecutive season of 30-plus starts could push his 2012 asking price past the $6.28MM Billingsley will earn in 2011, especially considering Pelfrey's high 2011 salary. Pelfrey doesn't have particularly impressive strikeout numbers or ERAs, however, which will help the Mets keep the right-hander's salary in check.
  • Dallas Braden$3.35MM in 2011 - Garza was working from the same base salary in 2010 and he earned a $2.6MM raise after logging 204 2/3 innings of 3.91 ERA ball in the AL East with a 2.4 K/BB ratio. If Braden wants to match Garza's raise, he'll have to earn it with another big year.
  • Jair Jurrjens, $3.25MM in 2011 - Jurrjens is well-positioned to ask for a salary in the $6MM range next year if he returns to his 2008-09 level of productivity.

Guthrie, Garza, Billingsley and Danks all had relatively healthy, productive seasons in 2010, which kept their 2011 salaries within a $600K range. A poor performance would have disrupted the pattern and the same applies to this year's class. They have to pitch well and stay healthy to earn raises to the $6MM range. Meanwhile, others will have the chance to prove they belong in the same discussion as Pelfrey, Jurrjens and Braden if they have big years.

  • Phil Hughes$2.7MM in 2011 - Hughes, who has just one full season as a Major League starter, is starting from a lower base salary than the others, so he'd likely need a standout season to approach $6MM in 2012.
  • Brandon Morrow$2.3MM in 2011 - Morrow doesn't have the bulk numbers his peers do, so he's at a disadvantage. But he has flashed dominant stuff and if he continues pitching the way he did from June on last year, he could justify asking for a larger-than-usual raise.

Other starters, including Edinson Volquez and Kevin Slowey, are also entering their first seasons as arbitration eligible pitchers, but raises to the $6MM range seem extremely improbable given their current salaries and career numbers. The same goes for super two players Armando Galarraga, Kyle Kendrick, Ross Ohlendorf and Luke Hochevar.


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