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Thursday, February 19, 2004
Pujols deal leads arbitration-eligible increase

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- After a one-year slowdown, salaries for baseball players in arbitration resumed their relentless climb.

The 65 players in arbitration will average a record $3.26 million this season, according to a study of their contract terms by The Associated Press. That's up from $2.76 million, the previous mark, set last year.

Led by St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols, who agreed Wednesday to a $100 million, seven-year deal, players averaged a 126 percent increase, well above the 92 percent rise last year, which was the lowest since 1996.

In the final case, decided Thursday, NL Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, being awarded a $5 million salary from the arbitrators who headed the case Wednesday in Phoenix.

Owners beat players 4-3 in cases that went to hearings, the eighth straight year management has won a majority of the cases. All seven players who went to hearings were eligible for arbitration for the first time.

Management holds a 263-197 advantage since arbitration began in 1974 and is 36-18 in the last five years since the commissioner's office started an arbitration support program for the clubs.

Nine players received multiyear deals, up from five last year but below the 17 in 2002 and 27 in 2001. AL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay got the second-biggest contract, a $42 million, four-year deal from the Toronto Blue Jays.

Philadelphia pitcher Kevin Millwood, who accepted his team's arbitration offer after filing for free agency, was the only other player to top a $10 million average salary, agreeing to an $11 million, one-year contract.

Forty-two players in arbitration doubled their salaries, including 28 who tripled, 21 who quadrupled, 18 who quintupled and 15 who had six-fold hikes.

Pujols had the biggest increase at 1,604 percent, with his salary rising from $950,000 to an average of $14.29 million.

Seattle pitcher Joel Pineiro was second at 1,198 percent, followed by San Francisco catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who won his case and will make $3.5 million, a rise of 1,059 percent. Gagne was fourth at 1,009 percent.

Only two players in arbitration failed to receive raises. Montreal pitcher Tony Armas Jr. got $2.1 million, matching his 2003 salary, following a season that ended with shoulder surgery last May. Yankees left-hander Gabe White got a deal that guaranteed him $2,125,000 following a three-year contract in which he averaged $2.41 million.

As in 2003, many arbitration-eligible players agreed to contracts before the Jan. 15 filing date because their teams threatened to release them the previous month.