While baseball owners prevented salary arbitration raises from topping last year's record, Milwaukee outfielder Jeromy Burnitz shattered the mark for the largest increase, getting a 1,511 percent hike.
Burnitz, who made $225,000 last season, got a 16-fold increase to an average of $3,625,000 in his $14.5 million. four-year contract. Burnitz, 28, hit .281 last season and led the Brewers with 27 homers and 85 RBIs.Pedro Martinez had the previous record, a 12-fold hike from $315,000 in 1996 to $3.5 million in 1997. After the second year, Montreal traded him to Boston and he signed a record $75 million, six-year contract.
Overall, salaries increase 150 percent in arbitration, down from the record rise of 154 percent last year. The 81 players who filed in January saw their salaries rise from an average of $774,323 to an average of $1,936,400, according to a study by The Associated Press.
In the final case decided, Florida catcher Charles Johnson won late Saturday and was awarded an 11-fold raise from $290,000 to $3.3 million. The Marlins had offered $2.25 million.
Part of the reason for the huge arbitration increases has been the owners' success at holding down salaries of players in their first three seasons, when they aren't eligible for arbitration. The salaries then increase dramatically when players are in arbitration for the first time.
Overall, the average for players in arbitration is still short of the record of $2,091,187, set in 1994 before the 71/2-month strike.
Seventy-three of the players who filed settled before hearings, leaving eight decided by arbitrators, up three from the record low set last year.
In the cases that went to hearings, owners had a 5-3 margin of victory, giving them 227-179 record since arbitration began in 1974.
Johnson's increase was the second-largest by percentage and New York Mets infielder Edgardo Alfonazo's was third, an eight-fold hike from $215,000 to $1.75 million.
There were 49 players who doubled their salaries, down from 60 last year, and 29 who tripled, down from 30. Twenty-three players got four-fold increases, an increase of three, and 15 got five-fold increases, the same as last year. Nine got six-fold raises, up one from 1997.
Multiyear contracts increased dramatically to 19. There were 14 in 1997, 10 in 1996 and just four following the strike in 1995.
San Diego outfielder James Mouton, slowed by a fractured wrist prior to the 1997 season, got the smallest increase, a raise from $415,000 to $425,000.