Antonio Bastardo and Arbitration

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 bulk of the arbitration process was explained extremely well by Maury Brown (@BizballMauryat FanGraphs a couple years ago. Some key points:

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:

Name Team SV IP ERA 2013 Salary
Wilton Lopez Astros 10 66.1 2.17 $1,760,000
Bobby Parnell Mets 7 68.2 2.49 $1,700,000
Jonny Venters Braves 0 58.2 3.22 $1,625,000
Mitchell Boggs Cardinals 0 73.1 2.21 $1,475,000
Antonio Bastardo Phillies 1 52.0 4.33 $1,400,000
Tony Sipp Indians 1 55.0 4.42 $1,275,000
Jerry Blevins Athletics 1 65.1 2.48 $1,100,000
James Russell Cubs 2 69.1 3.25 $1,075,000
Wesley Wright Astros 1 52.1 3.27 $1,025,000
Ryan Webb Marlins 0 60.1 4.03 $975,000
Josh Kinney Mariners 1 32.0 3.94 $700,000

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):

Name Team SV IP ERA 2012 Salary
Jim Johnson Orioles 9 91.0 2.67 $2,625,000
Jason Motte Cardinals 9 68.0 2.25 $1,950,000
Brad Ziegler Athletics 1 58.1 2.16 $1,795,000
David Robertson Yankees 1 66.2 1.08 $1,600,000
Sergio Romo Giants 1 48.0 1.50 $1,575,000
Luke Gregerson Padres 0 55.2 2.75 $1,550,000
Alfredo Aceves Red Sox 2 93.0 2.03 $1,200,000
Phil Coke Tigers 1 34.0 3.71 $1,100,000
Burke Badenhop Marlins 1 63.2 4.10 $1,075,000
Manny Acosta Mets 4 47.0 3.45 $875,000
Chris Resop Pirates 1 69.2 4.39 $850,000
Franklin Morales Rockies 0 46.1 3.69 $850,000

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:

Player SO/9 IP Age Tm
Craig Kimbrel 16.66 62.2 24 ATL
Aroldis Chapman 15.32 71.2 24 CIN
Antonio Bastardo 14.02 52.0 26 PHI
Jason Grilli 13.81 58.2 35 PIT
Kenley Jansen 13.71 65.0 24 LAD
Ernesto Frieri 13.36 66.0 26 TOT
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/19/2013.

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.

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8 comments

  1. nik

    January 19, 2013 08:56 AM

    I’m excited about the Phils bullpen. Papelbon, Adama, Bastardo, Aumont, DeFratus and Horst is setup to be a pretty sweet group. I want to see if Stutes regains his early 2011 form and if Diekman can find some control. Talent and depth, can’t ask for more than that.

  2. LTG

    January 19, 2013 12:22 PM

    Mike “Apollo” Adam(a)?

  3. Spree75

    January 20, 2013 09:32 PM

    1.4 million didn’t seem that excessive. I raised an eyebrow when I saw the amount but then carried on doing what I was doing. Considering it’s a rounding error on the Phillies payroll and is a pittance compared to the amount they have doled out to Howard, Ibanez, Papelbon, etc.

    It wouldn’t surprise me that the people complaining about the 1.4 to Bastardo are the same people that don’t see anything wrong with 25/year to Howard.

  4. Philli697

    January 21, 2013 04:49 AM

    $1.4M for a dude with 14.02 K/9 is controversial… But 2y/$12M for a dude with 7.74 K/9 is awesome. I give up on Phillies fans.

  5. Ryan Sommers

    January 21, 2013 08:57 PM

    Wow Adama is definitely what I am calling Mike Adams all next season

  6. ADM2424

    January 22, 2013 01:17 PM

    It’s my understanding that the arbitration process also includes a statistical comparison of career numbers along with “platform season” (season prior to arbitration eligibility: 2012 in Bastardo’s case). In first year arbitration eligible players, custom tends to be to value platform moreso than career, but career still has some weight even in 1st year arb. eligibles. Consideration shifts more towards a 50/50 split of platform vs. career as a player goes through arbitration subsequent times. I say all this to make the point that Bastardo’s deal is very reasonable. I personally find it reasonable on platform alone, but his past success in 2011 would likely compare favorably to many of the platform season players Bastardo is compared to in this article. I haven’t looked at the numbers on the other players, but that is my instinct.

  7. Reuben

    January 22, 2013 02:46 PM

    Certainly a good deal, I’d hope that they try to lock up Bastardo for a three year deal with a fourth year option for about 12-13 mil while they can still get him on the cheap.

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