PHILADELPHIA -- Infielder Eric Bruntlett avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $600,000 contract with the Phillies on Thursday, leaving Ryan Howard as the only Phillie with a potential arbitration hearing. Bruntlett, 29, will also receive performance bonuses. He had submitted a request for $800,000, while the Phillies offered $550,000. Bruntlett was acquired from the Astros in November. He is expected to back up at all four infield positions. Howard's case is scheduled to be heard on Feb. 20, the second-to-last day of hearings. If the two sides don't come to an agreement either on a one-year contract or a multi-year deal, a three-person panel will select a salary from either the $7 million submitted by the Phillies or the $10 asked for by Howard. The sides submitted those figures on Jan. 22.
If Howard, who already has a National League Rookie of the Year Award and NL MVP Award on his mantle, is awarded $10 million, it will be the highest received for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Alfonso Soriano received $10 million from the Nationals, but that came in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility. Philadelphia's number of $7 million matches the largest offered to a first-year arbitration-eligible player. St. Louis offered Albert Pujols $7 million in 2004. Arbitration is for players who have accumulated three years of big league service time, but less than six years. With two years and 145 days, Howard qualifies as a "Super Two" player because he ranks in the top 17 percent of players with more than two but fewer than three years of service time. The Phillies sit $3 million apart after exchanging salary numbers last week, the biggest gap among arbitration figures exchanged. "We're going to make every attempt to get something done prior to the hearing," general manager Pat Gillick said last month. "[Assistant general manager] Ruben [Amaro Jr.] is handling it, and he's had some very good discussions with Casey [Close, Howard's agent]. Hopefully we can get a meeting of the minds. We're open to anything." Philling in: To make room for third baseman Pedro Feliz on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated right-hander Anderson Garcia for assignment.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.