The Biz of Baseball has a lesson in comparing arbitration-eligible players: Service time comparisons are useless. And writer Joe Tetreault uses Hunter Pence as a comparison:
A multi-year deal for Hunter Pence is absolutely the prudent course of action. But...Pence's starting point is significantly higher than that of either Denard Span or Arizona's Mark Reynolds who just signed a long term contract as well.
Because neither would be arbitration eligible until after the season Span and Reynolds are more comparable...
...Constructing a reasonable contract for Pence needs to be based on his service time, his performance and comparable players. Luckily, we can project Pence’s progression with a similar player who is one year ahead of Pence in the arbitration process. The Dodgers Andre Ethier provides a near ideal roadmap for what lies ahead.
(Ed. Note: Ethier-as-roadmap was something we examined on January 15)
...Using Ethier as a guide, if Pence maintains his current rate of production, he should expect no less than $6.5 million in 2011 (Ethier is getting $6 million next season and Pence has a higher starting point) and better than $10 million in 2012 (Ethier is getting $9.25 million). To buy out the balance of his arbitration eligibility will likely cost Houston close to $30 million over three seasons on top of the $3.5 Pence will earn this year.
So chalk this up to "Maybe Ed Wade Knows What He's Doing."