Taking A Deeper Look Into Pelfrey’s Contract

When things are going bad with a franchise, there are times when fans will look at every decision made and search for the negatives.

Recently, it seemed as though some hysteria erupted at the fact that Mike Pelfrey signed a 1 year deal worth $5.7 million to avoid arbitration.

Sometimes I find that people comment on things they either do not understand or refuse to understand. For me, if I don’t understand a process, I ask questions or research the answers.

Rather than get further into that. I said to myself, “Self…maybe these angry fans need an education on arbitration.”

Now let me be clear, I am not an expert on the system, however, I didn’t just discover its existence yesterday because Pelfrey got a contract like some seem to have done. If you wanted Pelfrey totally gone, well that ship has sailed. They already entered the process, so complaining that they gave him a contract is something you’ve had over a month to do.

First let’s start with the actual arbitration process. (Not related to the old Free Agent compensation methods)

  • Players with at least 3 but less than 6 years of service time in the big leagues are eligible
  • The top 17% of players with at least 2 but less than 3 years of service time are known as “Super 2” players. To qualify this player must have at least 86 days of service time in the previous year.
  • The club’s salary offer to a player may NOT be less than 80% of his total salary from the prior year, and may NOT be 70% less than his salary from the year prior to that.


  • The player (agent) submit a salary figure to a 3 person panel of professional arbitrators. Just as an FYI, they probably aren’t Mets fans.
  • The team does the same thing as the player.
  • If both sides can not reach an agreement, then hearings are scheduled in February.


  • At the hearing, each group has 1 hour to present their case to the 3-person panel. Then they get an extra 30 minutes to respond/refute anything said by the opposing party.
  • The player MUST be in attendance for the hearing, but the Agent does the talking usually.
  • A team executive or attorney usually represents the team.

Then, the panel looks at both offers and considers the following:

  • Player contribution on the field and in clubhouse (“leadership”)
  • The club’s record and attendance
  • Any and all of the player’s individual accomplishments. Including Awards, All-Star appearances, and playoff performance.
  • The salaries of comparable players in the player’s service-time class. For players with LESS than 5 years, the class one year ahead of him is also considered.

Both sides can NOT reference the following:

– Team finances
– Previous offers made during negotiations
– Comments from press or salaries in other sports/occupations

So now that you have the nuts and bolts, let’s take a look at Mike Pelfrey. Please keep in mind, 2011 isn’t the only year that Pelfrey has pitched. It’s not the only thing that is looked at when determining his future salary.

The arbitrators are not “saber-heads,” or anything like that. So you need to remember that when making a case for or against a player. A team attorney isn’t going to reference a pitcher’s xFIP in order to win a case because it will likely go over their heads.

The most basic stat and easiest to argue for a pitcher is his Win totals. There are only 15 pitchers with 4-5 years of MLB service time with EQUAL or MORE wins than Mike Pelfrey.

They are: Shaun Marcum, Jair Jurrjens, Matt Garza, Yovani Gallardo, Fausto Carmona, John Danks, Ubaldo Jiminez, Ricky Nolasco, Tim Lincecum, Chad Billingsley, James Shields, Cole Hamels, Jon Lester and Jered Weaver.

So let’s take a look at the basics here. I’ll give you there 2012 salary (or arbitration demands), plus their W-L, IP, ERA, Awards Won etc.

Just to keep it clear, Pelfrey earned $3.92million last year and is making $5.675 million this year and has 4+ years of service time (but less than 5). He is 50-54 for his career with a 4.40 ERA and 876.2 innings pitched in 150 games.

Shaun Marcum
Salary: 2011 $3.95, awaiting contract for 2012 through arbitration.
Service Time: 5 years
Stats: 50-32 3.77 ERA 792.2 innings pitched in 153 games.

Jair Jurrjens
Salary: $5.5 million avoided arbitration in 2012.
Service Time: 4 years
Stats: 50-33 3.40 ERA 702.1 innings pitched in 115 Games.

Matt Garza
Salary: In 2011 it was $5.95 million, according to Jon Heyman he is requesting $10.225 million to Cubs offer of $7.95 million
Service Time: 4 years
Stats: 52-54 3.83 ERA 923.1 innings pitched in 152 games.

Yovani Gallardo
Salary: $5.5 million in 2012.
Service Time: 4 years
Stats: 53-34 3.63 ERA 712.1 innings pitched in 118 games.

Fausto Carmona
Salary: $7 million in 2012.
Service Time: 5 years
Stats: 53-66 4.59 ERA 934.2 innings pitched in 181 games.

John Danks
Salary: $500,000 in 2012 (Insanely back loaded deal, bumps to $14 million in 2013)
Service Time: 5 years
Stats: 54-56 4.03 ERA 917.2 innings pitched in 150 games.

Ubaldo Jiminez
Salary: $4.2 million in 2012
Service Time: 4 years
Stats: 60-49 3.76 ERA 916.1 innings pitched in 149 games.

Ricky Nolasco
Salary: $9 million in 2012
Service Time: 5 years
Stats: 64-51 4.50 ERA 922.1 innings pitched in 164 games

Tim Lincecum
Salary: Requested $21 million this year, Giants offering $17 million
Service Time: 4 years
Stats: 69-41 2.98 ERA 1,028 innings pitched in 156 games.

Chad Billingsley
Salary: $9 million in 2012
Service Time: 5 years
Stats: 70-52 3.68 ERA 1,013 innings pitched in 192 games.

James Shields
Salary: $7 million in 2012
Service Time: 5 years
Stats: 72-63 3.96 ERA 1,227 innings pitched in 185 games.

Cole Hamels
Salary: $15 million in 2012
Service Time: 5 years
Stats: 74-54 3.39 ERA 1,161 innings pitched in 181 games

Jon Lester
Salary: $7.62 million in 2012
Service Time: 5 years
Stats: 76-34 3.53 ERA 957.2 innings pitched in 155 games.

Jered Weaver
Salary: $14 million in 2012
Service Time: 5 years
Stats: 82-47 3.31 ERA 1,131 innings pitched in 177 games.

Keep in mind these are the ONLY pitchers with 0-5 years of MLB service time with as many or more wins than Pelfrey. Take their salaries, plus a middle of the ground arbitration for Lincecum/Garza and you have an average salary of $8.305 million (this is without any raise for Marcum as of now).

So Mike Pelfrey who is “worse” than all of these guys is making roughly $2.5-$3.0 million LESS than the average salary of the only pitchers with more wins than him in his service class.

When you consider the fact that Pelfrey has averaged 32 starts a year over the last 4 years, been asked to be the “ace” of his team due to injury to Santana, won 15 games for a bad team in 2010, who has played through injuries and pitched 15 games in 2011 that he could have won despite his poor record.

I’m not going to weep if Pelfrey is ever traded, but to sit here and flip out about the fact he got $5.7 million to avoid arbitration is really just baffling to me,

The reason the Mets avoided arbitration with him is not because of Sandy Alderson, it’s because the Mets (and Pelfrey) do NOT want a 3 panel group dictating how much they have to spend (or earn) in 2012.

They asses the financial market, and do the arbitrator’s job for them and try to come up with a figure that best suits both parties so that they don’t have to stand in a room and tell Mike Pelfrey to his face why he’s not worth a $6 million deal.

Every team does this. Not just the ones GM’d by Sandy Alderson. Every team.

About Michael Branda 267 Articles
Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.