2005: .257/.300/.450, 21.80 AB/HR in 109 AB
2006: .233/.290/.385, 38.57 AB/HR in 270 AB
2007: .258/.348/.459, 25.31 AB/HR in 329 AB
2008: .276/.353/.497, 22.96 AB/HR in 597 AB
Total: .261/.335/.461, 25.59 AB/HR in 1305 AB
According to Baseball Reference, the active players who are similar to McLouth are as follows (Note that the numbers represent their rankings according to B-R):
Church had a career line of .271/.346/.462, with 28.49 AB/HR in 997 AB leading up to his first year of arbitration. Like McLouth, Church had a big breakout year the year before his first arbitration year, posting a .272/.349/.464 line with 31.33 AB/HR in 470 ABs. He earned $2 M in his first year of arbitration.
Hermida recently got $2.25 M for his first arbitration year in 2009, after posting a career line of .267/.341/.436 with 29.07 AB/HR in 1279 ABs. Those numbers are similar to McLouth’s career numbers, although the difference between the two players is that Hermida hit .249/.322/.406 with 29.53 AB/HR in 502 ABs in 2008, while McLouth had a much better year.
Nady was arbitration eligible for the first time in his first full year with the Pirates. Leading up to the 2007 season, Nady had a career .270/.325/.429 line with 29.60 AB/HR in 1243 ABs. He earned $2.15 M in his first year of arbitration.
McLouth is an interesting case. Unlike Maholm, McLouth was never given the chance to start on a regular basis. When he was given more playing time in August and September of 2007, he responded with a .284/.391/.538 line, with 16.9 AB/HR in 169 ABs. In 2008 he had his breakout year, where he not only posted a .276/.353/.497 line, with 22.96 AB/HR in 597 AB, but also won a Gold Glove and was the Pirates’ All-Star representative.
While McLouth has similar stats to the guys above, the major difference is that Nady, Hermida, and Church weren’t the best players on their teams at the time. You could make the argument that with Bay and Nady now gone, McLouth is the best player on the Pirates team, and is more valuable than those players.
I wouldn’t say that the Pirates offer of $2.75 M is an appropriate value for McLouth, but I also wouldn’t say that the asking price of $3.8 M is fair either. Instead, I will look at one more player:
Chris B. Young
Young broke out in the 2007 season with a .237/.295/.467 line, with 17.78 AB/HR and 27 steals in 569 ABs. His 32 homers and 27 steals made up for the fact that he hit for a poor .237 average. The Diamondbacks gave him an extension which paid him $3.25 M for his fourth year in the league. Comparing McLouth and Young to date:
McLouth: .261/.335/.461, 25.59 AB/HR in 1305 ABs
Young: .243/.304/.451, 22.57 AB/HR in 1264 ABs
McLouth has the better line, but Young offers slightly more power. Young will probably qualify as a “Super-Two” player, meaning his third league minimum year would be replaced with an extra arbitration year. That doesn’t matter for Young, as his extension runs through his first two free agent years. However, that means that in his first arbitration year, Young would have made $1.75 M (his 2009 salary), with the $3.25 M being his second arbitration year.
Considering McLouth tops Young in average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, and has slightly less power, I’d say the $3.25 M figure would be an appropriate value. Coincidentally, that’s about the half-way point between McLouth and the Pirates.