Sun Feb 10 07:41am EST
The Philadelphia Phillies open spring training Thursday when pitchers and catchers officially report to camp in Clearwater, Fla. But the big date on everyone's calendar is Feb. 20, when the Phillies and Howard are scheduled for a salary arbitration hearing in St. Petersburg, Fla., if the sides can't reach a deal beforehand.
The smart bet is they will have a hearing, and it may get ugly according the the Philadelphia Inquirer. Howard, 28, wants $10 million, which would be the highest figure ever awarded a player who won an arbitration hearing (Andruw Jones won $8.2 million from Atlanta in 2001). Alfonso Soriano got $10 million from the Nationals in 2006, but he lost his case after seeking $12 million. The Phillies have offered $7 million, which ties the most money offered to a player in his first year of arbitration.
Howard wants much more than the seven-year, $85-million contract signed by Chase Utley. In a long-term contract, people with knowledge of the situation said Howard would be looking for salaries in the $20 million range in the final years of the deal. That could well surpass the $136 million deal Alfonso Soriano signed with the Cubs last year.