Here is what we know right now: Jody Gerut, Rickie Weeks, and Carlos Gomez have all avoided arbitration thanks to one-year deals totaling $5.85 million. As far as the four remaining arbitration-eligible players are concerned, Todd Coffey seems to be the furthest away from striking a deal, while Carlos Villanueva appears to be the closest.
Thanks to Tom Haudricourt, we know that Coffey is asking for $2.45 million, while the team offered him $1.7 million. The midpoint between these two figures is $2.075 million. A one-year, $2 million deal seems reasonable for a guy who was probably the second most valuable arm out of the bullpen behind Trevor Hoffman.
Corey Hart asked for $4.8 million while the club submitted a figure of $4.15 million. The midpoint there would be $4.475 million. To me, this seems to be the toughest case — Hart wants a raise of $1.55 million. In other words, he wants to be paid like his numbers didn’t decrease for a second consecutive season.
Dave Bush is asking for $4.45 million, while the club offered $4.125 million. The midpoint with Bush would be $4.2875 million, which seems like a reasonable enough number. While Bush fell out of favor with a lot of people last year, I still think he can be a very productive #4 pitcher — even a passable #3 — if he can stay healthy for a full season. While he struggled after being hit with a line drive last season, let’s not forget how dominating he can be when everything is clicking.
Finally, Villanueva wants to be labeled a millionaire for the first time, submitting a figure of $1.075 million. Given his struggles last year, the club is offering $800,000, placing the midpoint at $937,500. When all is said and done, I think Villa makes less than a million in 2010, but then again I couldn’t imagine Carlos Gomez’s salary making such a spike.
When you factor in what the Brewers have already committed to the three players who’ve signed, if the Brewers were to go to arbitration with each of the remaining four and lose, they’d pay a combined $18.625 million to the seven arby-eligibles. If they went to arbitration and won every case, they’d only be on the hook for $16.625 million. Considering Doug Melvin has said he’s anticipating arby cases to cost between $17 and $18 million, that could mean some extra money that could be spent luring Jarrod Washburn or Doug Davis to Milwaukee. If the Brewers can agree to contracts with the remaining four at the midpoint amounts, they would pay a total of $17.625 million — pretty much right in the middle of Melvin’s estimation, which would mean he had a pretty good idea what each player would be asking for. Given Melvin’s history of avoiding arbitration hearings, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about more signings in the next few days. It seems like only a matter of time before Villanueva and possibly Bush sign, but it could take longer to lock up Hart and Coffey, considering the large gaps between the figures presented.
It’s also important to remember that these contracts are not completely guaranteed — the Brewers could release any of these players in Spring Training and only be on the hook for a fraction of the salary — you may remember this happening to Claudio Vargas a couple springs ago, when it was clear that he wasn’t going to make the rotation out of camp and was due to make a starter’s salary. Why do I bring this up? Because something similar may happen to Bush if the Brewers find enough money in their budget to add another free agent pitcher, as the rumors seem to indicate they will. In that scenario, another option might be to option Manny Parra to Triple A, but the Brewers would free up a good amount of money by just letting Bush walk and keeping the much cheaper Parra in the majors.