Several arbitration records could fall in 2012. Here's my best attempt at finding the current records for starting pitchers who went year-to-year.
- First time: Dontrelle Willis - $4.35MM (2006). If you count the $100K in award bonuses Jered Weaver earned last year, he's the record holder at $4.365MM.
- Second time: Jered Weaver - $7.37MM (2011). Weaver's agent Scott Boras actually aimed to push this bar up to $8.8MM, but he lost an arbitration hearing to the Angels. There does not appear to be a challenger to this record in the upcoming offseason.
- Third time: Carlos Zambrano - $12.4MM (2007). Z's $5.9MM raise had precedent: the $6MM raises Kevin Millwood and Chan Ho Park received early in the decade.
Whatever you consider the first-time record, it'll probably fall unless Clayton Kershaw and David Price sign multiyear extensions. If those two aces have their first-time salaries determined in the arbitration process, they'll probably both reach $5MM.
Weaver, who already has six wins and 49 strikeouts on the season, has a good chance of topping Zambrano's $5.9MM raise and setting a new standard for elite pitchers going to arbitration for a third time. Based on projections, Weaver should be well ahead of where Zambrano was before his third arbitration year in everything aside from ERA (in which they could be almost dead even). Boras could have a good case for a $7-8MM raise, taking Weaver to a $15MM salary in his final year before free agency.
Side note: if Weaver's salary gets to such dizzying heights, the rising tide will lift those below him like John Danks and Matt Garza. If Weaver gets to $15MM before Danks' salary is determined, Danks' agent can use that to his client's benefit.
We haven't yet mentioned Tim Lincecum, who would have eclipsed Willis' record had he not signed a two-year deal. Lincecum is untouchable, and if his 2012 salary is determined by the arbitration process it will easily top Weaver's and be an arbitration record for all non-free agent players, not just pitchers.