Aaron Heilman: Best Bargain in Baseball

Aaron Heilman avoided arbitration and signed a one-year contract for a measly $1.2M.

OK, walking away from the fantasy world of MLB and in the reality we all live in, that’s a really sweet salary. For example, I’ll be lucky to make that much money in TEN years, never mind one.

But in relation to other Major Leaguers, and pitchers in particular, it seems to me that Heilman will be grossly underpaid.

I understand the arbitration process, and the fact that Heilman will have to “wait his turn” — in other words, stay healthy and effective until he reaches his free agent years. However, there’s a glitch in the system when Aaron Heilman has to settle for $1.2M and Jorge Sosa will make either $2.75M (his figure) or $1.7M (Mets figure). Seriously folks … is Jorge Sosa worth more to the Mets than Aaron Heilman? Is it even close?

By the way, Heilman earned a salary of $453,000 last season.

A few other comparatives up for arbitration (the list can be found here):

Jon Rauch: $1.1M (Nats) | $1.4M (his)

Todd Wellemeyer: $875K (Cards) | $1.4M (his)

Rafael Soriano: $2.4M (Braves) | $3.4M (his)

Kyle Snyder: $725K (Bosox) | $1.025M (his)

Matt Guerrier: $750K (Twins) | $1.15M (his)

Geoff Geary: $950K (Astros) | $1.25M (his)

Joe Beimel: $1.7 (Dodgers) | $2.15M (his)

Rafael Betancourt: $1.75 (Indians) | $2.5M (his)

Hmm … looking at some of these names (Todd Wellemeyer ??? Geoff Geary ???), you have to wonder whether Aaron needs to get a new agent. It’s astounding to think that Sosa and Beimel will earn more than Heilman in ’08, and that Wellemeyer, Snyder, and Geary will be making about the same amount as Aaron.

Taking this a step further, it’s easy to understand why Heilman had been so persistent about wanting to start rather than relieve. As a setup man, yes he has value to the team but not in the arbitration room — without wins and saves, a guy can have a hard time proving his worth. On the other hand, a starter merely needs to show up to earn a substantial salary. Don’t believe it? Consider these arbitration cases:

Chad Gaudin: $1.5M (A’s) | $2.05M (his)

Matt Belisle: $1M (Reds) | $1.65M (his)

Daniel Cabrera: $2.6M (O’s) | $3.3M (his)

Does anyone disagree that Heilman would be better than Gaudin or Belisle in a starting role? And though Cabrera has other-worldly talent, when it comes to actual performance, wouldn’t you agree that Heilman, as a starter, would be able to win 9 or 10 games, throw around 160-180 innings, and post an ERA around five? Because that’s about Cabrera’s output over his four-year career.

At just over a million bucks, Aaron Heilman seems to be a darn good bargain — particularly on a team who pays their players an average salary of nearly four times Heilman’s.

Food for thought.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 January 19, 2008 at 1:47 pm
    Scary how we’re almost always on the same page, Joe:

    I’m not saying this as someone who’s making a comment for the sake of making one, but — if I were Aaron Heilman — a guy who was drafted in the 1st round, with the hopes of becoming a successful starting pitcher in The Bigs, I couldn’t say I was genuinely “happy” with the way my career is turning out. The Mets absolutely ruined his development the entire way, and although he’s been successful as a reliever, we’ll never know what he might have been, had he been given the proper tutelage.

    I can totally understand why he might feel disgruntled at points — and I don’t typically ever take the side of millionaires who play a game for a living.

    He’s one of the longest-tenured Mets at this point, and is still making peanuts. Great for management, sucks for him.

    He may not come through every time, but I like Heilman and hope he is in the middle of big-time success in 2008.