Two comps likely helped Hart

So, the verdict is in and Corey Hart won his arbitration case against the Brewers. That means he will earn $4.8 million next season instead of the $4.15 million the Brewers had proposed.

These decisions are all based on “comps,” or comparisons to already-set salaries of players similar in terms of service time and performance. Neither side has been willing to discuss its strategy, but it seems very likely to me that Hart’s representatives from CAA Sports, including his lead agent, Jeff Berry, successfully made the comp to Jeff Francoeur of the Mets and/or Josh Willingham of the Nationals. And I’m guessing that the Brewers more likely argued that the precedent for Hart’s salary should be someone like Jeremy Hermida of the Red Sox.

All three are corner outfielders in Hart’s service class. Here’s a look:

Francoeur earned $3.4 million last season, just $150,000 more than Hart, and avoided arbitration when he settled with the Mets on a $5 million contract for 2010. For his career, Francoeur is a .271 hitter with 88 home runs, 400 RBIs and 15 stolen bases (Hart is a .273 hitter with 67 home runs and 260 RBIs). In 2009, the players so-called “platform year” in this case, Francoeur hit .280 with 15 homers and 76 RBIs in 593 at-bats. Hart, limited to 419 at-bats because of an emergency appendectomy in August, batted .260 with 12 homers and 48 RBIs.

Willingham, meanwhile, earned $2.95 million last season and avoided arbitration with the Nationals with a $4.6 million pact for 2010, which was less than Hart’s filing number but fell on the player’s side of the midpoint between Hart’s proposal and the Brewers’. Willingham also had a better platform year, batting .260 in 2009 with 24 home runs — remember his two grand slams on July 27 at Miller Park? — and 61 RBIs in 427 at-bats. For his career Willingham has a .263 average, 87 home runs and 260 RBIs.

Hermida earned $2.25 million from the Marlins in 2009 and had a very similar platform year to Hart, batting .259 with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs. For his career, Hermida has played in 516 games (vs. Hart’s 521) compiled 1,708 at-bats (to 1,831) and batted .265 (to .273) with 57 home runs (67) and 210 RBIs (260).  

Hermida filed for $3.85 million in arbitration and the Red Sox countered at $2.95 million. They settled last month at $3.345 million, or $55,000 less than the midpoint.

In the end, Hart’s argument won out. Now the Brewers are 2-for-4 in arbitration hearings since the process was instituted in 1974. According to the Biz of Baseball’s Maury Brown, Major League clubs have won 280 cases to the players’ 208 wins, with 11 10 cases still on the docket this year. Tim Lincecum and the Giants reportedly avoided a big one with a multi-year agreement on Friday. 


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That Corey Hart’s people could make a case that his numbers are in any way comparable to Josh Willingham’s show how little the panel knows about baseball.

Willingham’s consistency has been in stark contract to Hart’s inconsistency. Willingham for 4 straight years has posted OBP around .360 and OPS numbers well above .800. Corey Hart has never reached an OBP of .360 and only once has surpassed an .800 OPS.

I don’t know a Brewer fan out there that wouldn’t trade Hart straight up for Willingham even though Hart is a few years younger.

Unfortunately for Corey Hart, 99.9% of Brewer fans could care less about these “comps.” All they care about are the fruitless ABs, going down swinging at low outside pitches in the dirt. Corey won the hearing (and an additional $650,000), but he lost most of the fans. They will boo him mercilessly unless he can change his most recent tendency of very poor ABs. In the end, thick skin or not, I wonder if Corey will feel that little bit of extra money will prove to be “worth it.” Don’t get me wrong. I won’t be hypocritical and say Corey shouldn’t have gone for as much money as he could. But let’s face it, either way he would have been making more than $4 million and in the interest of keeping the fans on his side he might have been better advised to try to live on $4.15 million instead of $4.8 million. Here’s hoping Corey can recapture some of that offensive firepower that got him elected to his first (and only) All-Star team in 2008. As, presumably, the Brewer’s starting right fielder, I sincerely wish him nothing but the best in 2010. I hope he can prove to Brewer fans that he’s worth all of what he’s being paid.

I hope I’m wrong, but I think Hart is done. Had to do what we had to do to prove it but in my opinion I think his career in the majors is over. Not worth much as a designated hitter if he can’t hit.

I hope I’m wrong, but I think Hart is done. Had to do what we had to do to prove it but in my opinion I think his career in the majors is over. Not worth much as a designated hitter if he can’t hit.

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