Antonio Bastardo finished the 2012 season with a 4.33 ERA, a far cry from the 2.64 figure with which he ended 2011. Nevertheless, Bastardo and the Phillies avoided arbitration yesterday, agreeing on a one-year, $1.4 million contract in the lefty’s first year of eligibility. The $1.4 million salary is nearly triple what he earned last season, which seems to have become a topic of controversy. I made the mistake of checking Twitter and Facebook for reactions, so now I must explain why there’s nothing controversial about the Bastardo news.
The [arbitration] process is based largely on three factors:
- Major League Service Time;
- Comparable statistics with like players by position, and;
- Comparable salaries with like players by position;
A player of between 3 and 6 years of service time (the CBA defines one full year as a total of 172 days of Major League credited service) becomes automatically eligible for salary arbitration.
When we look at comparable players for Bastardo, we are specifically looking at arbitration-eligible non-closer relief pitchers with between three and four years of service time. Among those who did not have injury-plagued seasons in 2012, there were ten other non-closer relievers along with Bastardo:
As you can see, Bastardo’s salary ranks fifth among the 11 comparable relievers. We can even go back to last season to see how Bastardo’s comps fared (note that SV, IP, and ERA are from 2011):
|Alfredo Aceves||Red Sox||2||93.0||2.03||$1,200,000|
Bastardo’s $1.4 million would have been the seventh-highest among the 12 other comparable relievers. Matt Swartz projected Bastardo to earn $1.1 million, but the extra $300,000 isn’t surprising nor is it controversial. If the Phillies felt that there was no appropriate salary for Bastardo, they would have non-tendered him, but that option is usually reserved for players whose performance is far below what their salary would dictate — Luke Hochevar of the Kansas City Royals, for example, recently avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $4.56 million contract despite a career 5.39 ERA, including 5.73 in 2012. It was expected that the Royals would non-tender him, but they didn’t for unforeseen reasons (a.k.a. the Royals being the Royals). The Phillies previously non-tendered Nate Schierholtz, for a more local example.
Bastardo was never going to be non-tendered — not when he was among the most potent relievers last year:
The Phillies handled Bastardo’s arbitration-eligibility correctly, and they should consider themselves very fortunate that a pitcher of his caliber — one that could very easily set up or close for a number of teams, including their own — will be used as a middle reliever in the upcoming season at a relatively cheap price.