More Sports:

January 13, 2017

Phils avoid arbitration with Gomez, exchange salary figures with Hernandez

The Phillies agreed a one-year contract (worth $4.2 million, according to a team source) with right-handed reliever Jeanmar Gomez on Friday afternoon, avoiding arbitration ahead of the deadline for players and teams to file salary figures. After agreeing to a one-year deal with shortstop Freddy Galvis on Thursday night, the Phillies have one arbitration-eligible player left on the docket: second baseman Cesar Hernandez.

The Phillies and Hernandez’s representatives will still work to hammer out a deal before arbitration hearings take place in February. Major league teams and their arbitration-eligible players had until 1 p.m. on Friday to come to agreements before filing salary figures.

Hernandez, in his first year of salary arbitration, filed for $2.8 million on Friday while the Phillies filed $2 million.

The process of filing numbers – what each party considers a fair salary for the upcoming season – is important because if a deal is not struck in the next month, an arbiter chooses one of those figures in a hearing next month and that becomes the player’s salary for the season. The Phillies have not gone to an arbitration hearing with a player since February of 2008 with Ryan Howard.

Hernandez had a team-best .294 average and .371 OBP in 2016, his first full season as the Phillies' regular second baseman. The 26-year-old Hernandez earned $525,000 last year.

There stands a decent chance that the two parties will meet somewhere in the middle – $2.4 million? – before any arbitration hearing would have to take place. Earlier this offseason, projected that Hernandez could earn $2.5 million through arbitration for the 2017 season.

Hernandez, a switch-hitter and arguably the team’s most consistent offensive player in 2016, really took off after the first 2 1/2 months of the season: he hit .327 with a .421 OBP from June 23 through the end of the year, a 87-game span. After the All-Star break, only five major league players (min. 250 plate appearances) had a better OBP than Hernandez’s .413: Joey Votto (.490), Mike Trout (.461), D.J. LeMahieu (.437), Freddie Freeman (.433), and Miguel Cabrera (.423).

Hernandez, however, often failed to take advantage of what’s probably hist best tool: his speed. He was caught stealing 13 times in 30 attempts last season. Only Milwaukee infielder and former Phillies prospect Jonathan Villar, who also had 45 more stolen bases, was caught stealing more often.

Hernandez did, however, grade out well in defensive metrics at second base. 

Gomez, meanwhile, figures to be one of three pitchers (with Hector Neris and newcomer Joaquin Benoit) competing for the closer job this spring. After a spring-long search for a ninth-inning reliever produced no clear winner last year – and leaked into a shaky first week of the season, too – Gomez emerged in early April as a dependable closer for the majority of 2016.

Gomez collected 37 saves, fifth-best in the NL. But he struggled in the season’s final six weeks, so much so that he was a possible non-tender candidate when the arbitration process first began last month. Despite all the saves, Gomez’s sported a shaky 1.456 WHIP and a 6.16 strikeout rate that ranked 83rd of 86 NL relievers with at least 40 innings, numbers that are not representative of a dominant, back-end-of-the-bullpen reliever.

Still, general manager Matt Klentak said last month that retaining Gomez was a fairly easy decision.

“As we went through the decision-making process, it was important for us to remember that this guy was really good for the first five months,” Klentak said at last month’s Winter Meetings. “And he was not on our radar to be the closer early, but he took the bull by the horns in the first week of the season and never really looked back. It’s easy to only remember what he did in September, because that’s what’s most fresh in our mind now, but this guy was pretty good for the first five months.

“As it turned out, it was not a particularly tough decision to tender him. Whether he pitches the ninth, or the eighth, or in a multi-inning role, which he’s also done, we think Jeanmar Gomez can provide plenty of value in any of those roles.”

Gomez received a nice raise in 2017: he earned $1.4 million last season, his first year of arbitration. projected that Gomez could earn $4.6 million through arbitration this winter.

After the Phillies come to terms with Hernandez and the rest of a roster chock full of players who aren’t arbitration eligible yet (a group that includes Maikel Franco, Cameron Rupp, Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff) their opening day payroll figures to be just north of $100 million, unless they make another significant free agent signing or trade. Included in that figure is the $24.2 million in buyout clauses given to Ryan Howard ($10 million), Matt Harrison ($13.2 million) and Charlie Morton ($1 million), none of whom are still with the organization.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21