Nov 262011
Phillies RF Hunter Pence

Phillies RF Hunter Pence is again arbitration eligible

Second on the Phillies’ in-house shopping list is Hunter Pence. Pence went to arbitration last year with the Astros and won, netting himself a 1-year/$6.9 million contract in the process. He’s got 4.156 years of MLB service under his belt and is arbitration eligible for the third time.  Pence actually has some interesting comparables, so let’s get to it:

Andre Ethier, LAD (2010)–3.153 years service time, player $7.65MM, club $6.0MM–settled with a 2-year/$15.25 million contract.

Ethier’s last two seasons before filing (average): .287/.367/.509/877 OPS, 26 home runs, 92 RBI, six stolen bases — and in 2009, he finished sixth in MVP voting and won a Silver Slugger. He made $3.1MM in 2009.

Pence’s last two seasons (average): .298/.348/.481/829 OPS, 24 home runs, 94 RBI, 13 stolen bases — he finished 16th in MVP voting this year and made $6.9 million.

It’s funny because Ethier is listed on Baseball-Reference as the third most similar player to Pence in MLB history. Exclude Ethier’s first year and you get a 1-year/$9.5 million contract.  In my opinion, Ethier has been the (slightly) better player based on counting stats that the arbiters are looking at, so this might break in the Phillies favor. On the other hand, Ethier had an awful year this year, which might make the comparison less than significant.

Another comparison for Pence is Delmon Young, who has almost identical service time and settled for $5.375 million last year. On the higher side, arguing for Pence to get less money is Josh Hamilton. Hamilton has almost the same service time as Pence, and signed a 2-year/$22.5 million contract coming off his 2010 MVP season that will pay him $13.75 million in 2012.  Or there’s also Jose Bautista, who signed a 5/$65 million contract to avoid arbitration.

Looking at the comparables, you come up with a one-year range of about $8.25 million (a little less than Ethier) and about $11 million (much less than Hamilton), so the Phils would need to offer $8.25-8.5 million to avoid certain loss, and Pence will probably counter with around $10-11 million. I think they should settle around $9.5 million for a one-year deal, because the Phils don’t want to go to arbitration.

Pence is another solid candidate for a multi-year deal. Amaro has some room to play with this, providing Pence with a nice payday and saving salary this year:

2012: $7.5 million
2013: $12 million
2014: $12 million
2015: $13.5 million
2016: option for $15 million

…a 4-year/$45 million contract with an option (non-vesting) that can take the value to 5/$60 million. A very friendly contract for both team and player.

The last part in this series will detail the other five Phillies players eligible for arbitration.  Read part one of the story here, which looks specifically at Cole Hamels and includes a more detailed explanation of the arbitration process.  Thanks for reading.

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