Phils, Blanton far apart heading to arbitration
Assistant GM believes club will sign players before hearings
If the Phillies and Joe Blanton want to avoid an arbitration hearing in February, it seems like there's going to have to be some significant compromise.
As of Tuesday, the two sides stand close to $3 million apart.
Based on figures released in anticipation for a potential arbitration hearing next month, Blanton seeks $10.25 million for the 2010 season, but the Phillies are proposing $7.5 million, which is a bump of more than $2 million from his '09 salary.
The Phillies' two other arbitration-eligible players are Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz. In Ruiz's case, he's asking for $2.5 million, and the club's submitted figure was $1.7 million. Victorino currently wants $5.8 million, while the club is offering $4.75 million. Also, according to CSNPhilly.com, Victorino and the Phillies are discussing at least a two-year deal, which would take him through the remainder of his arbitration years.
Arbitration hearings will be scheduled at some point between Feb. 1 and 21, but clubs can still negotiate with their players until their respective scheduled hearings. If a hearing is needed, one of the two figures publicized on Tuesday afternoon will be selected.
But even though $2.75 million stand between the Phillies and Blanton at this point, assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said he doesn't anticipate going to arbitration with any of his players.
"We're working toward agreements in all cases and fully expect to get something done before we head to a hearing -- in all cases," said Proefrock, who wouldn't go into specifics about the figures.
"We're just continuing to have discussions with all three of them and hope to work toward agreements here in the near term."
Of the three remaining, Blanton is the only one who will be a free agent next offseason.
The 29-year-old right-hander avoided arbitration and made $5.475 million in 2009. That year, Blanton went 12-8 with a 4.05 ERA in 31 starts, striking out 163 batters and walking 59 in 195 1/3 innings. Blanton has made more than 30 starts each of his five full seasons and has pitched no less than 194 1/3 innings in that span. For his six-year career, he is 63-54 with a 4.21 ERA.
Regardless of whether Blanton makes his desired salary for 2010, the club's, or the two find a middle ground, he'll be the second-highest-paid starting pitcher on the Phillies, behind Roy Halladay -- who's owed $15.75 million next season, with the Jays paying $6 million of that salary. Projected No. 2 starter Cole Hamels is set to make $6.65 million in 2010.
Victorino made $3.125 million in his first year of arbitration this past season, which saw him finish with a .292 batting average, .358 on-base percentage, 10 homers, 62 RBIs and 25 steals in 156 games. The 29-year-old center fielder has been solid each of the past four years, putting up a .289 batting average while averaging 10 homers, 53 RBIs and 26 steals per season.
Ruiz, meanwhile, is arbitration-eligible for the first time after making just over $400,000 in 2009. The soon-to-be 30-year-old catcher hit .255 with nine homers -- a career high -- and 43 RBIs in 107 games in '09. During his last three years as a full-time catcher, Ruiz has appeared in an average of 113 games per season while hitting .245 and averaging six homers and 43 RBIs. Throughout his four-year career, Ruiz has thrown out 27 percent of would-be base stealers.
The Phillies haven't gone to arbitration since 2008, when Ryan Howard won a record $10 million in a hearing. Before that, their last arbitration case was Travis Lee in '01.
Last year, they settled with all 10 arbitration-eligible players, with Howard, Cole Hamels and Ryan Madson each getting three-year deals. And on Monday night, the Phillies scratched one potential arbitration case off the list, when they settled on a one-year, $2.125 million contract with right-handed reliever Chad Durbin.
"It's a similar situation as last year," Proefrock said, "where we're happy to have Chad back on board and hope he rebounds to have the kind of year he had for us in 2008."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.