There’s a lot of buzz about Ryan Howard’s contract situation. Newspaper stories, talk radio topics and message board fodder.
As has been published, Ryan’s side has submitted a $10 million figure, the Phillies are at $7 million, which matches the largest contract ever for a player in his first year of arbitration.
Howard is eligible for arbitration for the first time as a “super-two” player. Generally, a player needs three years of service time in the majors to be eligible. Ryan has two years and 145 days which makes him eligible under the “super two” rule in which he ranks in the top 17 percent of players with more than two but fewer than three years of service. (182 days constitute a baseball season and determine service time).
Service time is part of the baseball process that was negotiated by baseball and the players’ union a long time ago. So, arbitration is part of this process.
Players with six years of major league service then are eligible for free agency. Ryan will be eligible after the 2011 season. That also means he will be eligible for arbitration in 2009, 2010 and 2011. By being a “super-two” player, he has four years of arbitration as opposed to three, which is the norm.
As Pat Gillick indicated earlier this week, “We’ll continue to probe as we did a year ago to get a multi-year deal. We’re open and will make every attempt to get something done prior to the hearing. Ruben (Amaro Jr., assistant GM) is handling it and he’s had discussions with Ryan’s agent.”
Once figures are exchanged, the sides can continue to negotiate up until they walk in the door of an arbitration hearing which involves both sides and a three-person panel. In addition, some multi-year deals have been completed following arbitration decisions. Hearings this year will be scheduled in St. Petersburg, FL, between February 1 and 21 (Ryan’s been set for the 20th).
The arbitrators will listen to each side and make a decision. There is no middle ground.
Perception has it that the hearings turn into a battle field. As Gillick explained in the Daily News this week: “The hearing is not anything like what it’s portrayed. All it is is a difference of opinion on numbers. That’s all. The club thinks its number is appropriate, the player thinks his number is appropriate. That’s all there is. I don’t see it as a problem.”
Bottom line: at some point the contract will be settled and the Phillies look forward to having Ryan in the middle of the lineup for 162 games and many more years.