Phillies Avoid Arbitration with Jeanmar Gomez, Will Exchange Figures with Hernandez

After reaching a $4.35 million agreement with Freddy Galvis on Thursday to avoid arbitration hearings, the Phillies gained varying levels of closure with their two remaining arbitration candidates on Friday afternoon.

Matt Gelb was the first to report that the Phillies have settled with 2016 closer Jeanmar Gomez for a $4.2 million salary for 2017. He made $1.4 million in 2016 and was projected to receive $4.6 million in arbitration according to MLB Trade Rumors. Prior to a late-season meltdown, Gomez was a surprisingly reliable ninth-inning option for the team, notching 37 saves after recording only one for his career entering the season. His 4.85 ERA is the result of a disastrous final month. Through the end of August, he had a 2.97 ERA and 3.64 FIP.

With the additions of Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit plus last year’s breakout performance from Hector Neris, Gomez figures to return to the sixth or seventh inning option for which he is better suited. His low-strikeout (career 14 percent K-rate), high groundball (career 50.2 percent) style isn’t typical of the modern high-strikeout closer. But, since 2013, he’s used that repertoire to prevent runs well. He’s a valuable bullpen piece and, at $4.2 million, he should be a positive asset for a much deeper Phillies bullpen in 2017.

Gelb also announced that the Phillies have not reached an agreement with second baseman Cesar Hernandez. As a result, the team and Hernandez will exchange salary figures in preparation for an arbitration hearing. As I covered yesterday in the post about Galvis, this does not necessarily mean that they will go to arbitration, which can often be a contentious process that generates bad blood between an organization and a player. Both parties can work out an agreement before the date of the hearing, which will likely be sometime in mid-February.

It isn’t surprising that Hernandez and the Phillies couldn’t come to an agreement regarding his value. In 2016, Cesar was worth between 3.3 and 4.4 WAR according to the three major varieties of the statistic with a .294/.371/.393 slash line. Those numbers conflict somewhat with the “eye test” which saw Cesar as a consistently frustrating player who ran into needless outs on the base paths. Despite that sense being shared by everyone, FanGraphs rated his base running as above average.

That disconnect between his publicly available statistical value and his apparent average or below-average-ness likely explains why an agreement has not yet been reached. He’s a difficult player for us to judge from the outside, and it seems that the Phillies find themselves in a similar conundrum. Hernandez’s camp likely sees him as the four-ish win player the numbers say he is and are asking for a value more commensurate with that than what the Phillies were offering. MLB Trade Rumors projects Hernandez to make $2.5 million through arbitration after making the $525,000 league minimum last season.

Update: Ryan Lawrence is reporting that Hernandez has filed at $2.8 million with the Phillies filing at $2 million. With a small difference like that, it would be a surprise if they didn’t work out an agreement prior to a formal arbitration hearing at a figure more or less at MLBTR’s estimated $2.5 million.

With middle infielders like Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford advancing through the minor leagues, the Phillies have not entered a long-term arrangement with Hernandez, likely with the belief that better options will be available sooner rather than later. Though going to arbitration is an increasingly rare outcome of these cases in the league, a baffling case like Hernandez’s seems like the sort of instance that could actually slip through to a hearing. The Phillies will likely continue to attempt to avoid that outcome, but, in a situation like this, they may not have much choice. Most arbitration players reach an agreement by today’s deadline. That the Phillies and Hernandez didn’t is indication that both sides are a ways apart on his value.

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