MLB Rumors: Derrek Lee and 10 Guys Who Won't Be Offered Arbitration
Baseball’s free agency rules are reason No. 1,546,567 fans watch games. Or not. They are confusing, they are mundane, and many of them need to be revamped.
We are going to try to make some sense of one rule here in regards to the status of free agents and what it means for salary arbitration.
Generally, the Elias Sports Bureau releases free agent statuses three times a year.
In July, usually in advance of the trade deadline, Elias will release its first projection of possible free agents for the coming winter.
Another projection will come after the conclusion of the regular season.
And then the final release will come after the playoffs have wrapped up and all statistics from that season are final.
Elias lists players who may hit the free agent market this year and applies a Type A (top 20 percent at their position), Type B (top 40 percent at their position) or no status to their name.
These “statuses” are derived from a complex system that utilizes a wealth of stats and numbers, and it’s the final status that determines what form of draft pick compensation will be assigned to each given player on the free agent market.
For instance, if a player is deemed a “Type A” free agent and signs with a new team, then that team will have to give up its first-round pick in the coming year — the top 15 picks are protected, however — and the team that “lost” the player will receive the aforementioned first-round pick plus a supplemental-round pick (between first and second round).
If a player is deemed a “Type B” free agent, then any team can sign him without giving up a draft pick while his old team that “loses” him would receive just a supplemental-round pick in return.
If a player isn’t given any status, then there is no form compensation involved.
Take this winter for an example (this is completely hypothetical.)
Say the Boston Red Sox offer Victor Martinez (Type A) arbitration and he declines and instead signs with the New York Yankees as a free agent. The Red Sox would receive New York’s first-round pick in the 2011 draft as well as a pick between the first and second round.
Since two picks are attached to Type A free agents, teams are more apt to offer them arbitration if they aren’t certain they can sign the player to a long-term deal. Type Bs are less likely.
In advance of the 2011 free agent market, lets take a look at ten guys who probably will not be offered arbitration.
Derrek Lee, First Base, Atlanta Braves
When the Atlanta Braves traded for Lee this summer and rescued him from another autumn of despair on the north side of Chicago, they thought they were going to get a thumper for the middle of their order.
No, no, the Braves didn’t think they would get Lee circa 2005—the year he posted a 1.080 OPS in Chicago—but they thought they would be getting a man who could help take them deep into the post season and give manager Bobby Cox a proper farewell before he took his spikes and walked into retirement.
What Atlanta got was a nice player. Problem is, they needed more than that.
In 39 games with the Braves, Lee had a .384 OBP and a .849 OPS, but the Braves thought they would get more than one home run for every 13 games.
They didn’t, and now Lee enters this winter as a Type B free agent. It would be almost indefensible for Atlanta to offer Lee arbitration, mostly because he would probably accept and make a salary that the Braves can’t justify.
Lee made $13 million in 2010, and there won’t be one team on the market this winter waiting to give him those kinds of dollars. It doesn’t make sense for the Braves to risk locking up double-digit dollars when all they would receive is a sandwich round pick if Lee decided to go elsewhere.
Atlanta could bring Lee back next year for less money, or they could give rookie Freddie Freeman a chance to win the job in spring training.
Lance Berkman, First Base/DH, New York Yankees
Berkman is a Type B free agent and his $15 million club option for 2011 seems stiff even for the New York Yankees.
The Yankees traded for Berkman this summer, and he hit .255 in pinstripes with a .358 OBP.
Berkman has a $2 million buyout on his 2011 option, and all indications are that the Yankees will fork over that $2 million and let Berkman go elsewhere as a free agent.
It wouldn’t make sense for the Yankees to offer Berkman arbitration as he is only a Type B free agent, and Berkman will surely want a multi-year deal from someone.
The Yankees have bigger issues to deal with this winter, like free agents Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte.
Bringing back Berkman on a small deal probably won’t happen either, as the Yankees have Mark Teixeira occupying first base and multiple veterans who could use some time at DH to spare their legs.
Jason Varitek, Catcher, Boston Red Sox
If the world ran on sentiment, Varitek would retire in Boston. He’s been the captain, the leader, and the guy behind the team that broke the Curse of the Bambino.
In short, Varitek has meant everything to Red Sox fans.
But there’s no getting around the erosion of Varitek’s bat, and it’s hard to imagine a GM as savvy and competent as Theo Epstein offering arbitration to a Type B free agent that would accept it without hesitation.
Varitek may want to try to find one more contract out there somewhere, or he may decide that it’s time to go home.
Whatever the case, the Red Sox are going to go hard after catcher Victor Martinez on the free agent market this winter, and they have younger, cheaper options to serve as Martinez’s backup.
Varitek isn’t a Hall of Famer. And, no, he’s not going to be a name that is revered by the youngsters of this generation.
But for those who will be able to remember his peak, his days in Boston where he ran a pitching staff and delivered timely hits on cold October nights when history said the Red Sox shouldn’t be playing any longer, Varitek will be remembered as a damn good player.
Tickets are sold because of guys like Hanley Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez, but franchises are sustained on the shoulders of men like Varitek.
Kevin Millwood, Starting Pitcher, Baltimore Orioles
Kevin Millwood has made nearly $90 million over the course of his 14-year career because he has been able to do one thing better than most: take the ball.
Millwood isn’t stellar. His ERA is rarely better than pedestrian. He gives up a lot of hits. He bends more than chicken wire, but the man doesn’t break.
Millwood has made a career out of averaging 208 innings per year throughout his career.
After going 4-16 with a 5.10 ERA in 2010 with the Baltimore Orioles, where Millwood’s career goes from here remains unclear.
Millwood is a Type B free agent and teams won’t be frothing for his services this winter, which is why Baltimore will say thanks but no thanks on arbitration.
Millwood made $12 million this year, and Baltimore will now let him walk and see what he can get on the open market. The Orioles have plenty of young arms that could use the innings, anyway.
Javier Vazquez, Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees
Yankees fans see Vazquez’s name and immediately scream, “No! For the love of God, NOOO!”
So, yeah, not much else to add about Vazquez’s second go-around in The Bronx.
The Yankees traded for Vazquez in the offseason after he had a standout 2009 season in Atlanta. The problem is, the A.L. East is in a class of its own.
Nothing else compares to the competition a pitcher faces in the American League, let alone the division with the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays.
After a season in which Vazquez’s hits, homers and walks went up, and his innings and strikeouts went down, New York has seen enough.
The Yankees won’t offer the Type B free agent arbitration out of fear he will accept, but Vazquez is an odd guy because he could command much more attention on the open market than a typical Type B would.
It’s not farfetched to see Vazquez getting a multi-year deal from a National League team, particularly a N.L. West team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, who need pitching and play in a division full of pitching-friendly parks.
Vazquez still has good stuff, he simply needs to go back to trusting it the way he did in 2009. Too many times this year Vazquez appeared as if he was pitching away from contact in fear of getting shelled like he did when he last pitched in New York.
Vazquez’s 2010 campaign could simply be one of those trying-to-do-more-than-you-need-to deals and perhaps it’s possible he regains his confidence and command somewhere else next year.
Johnny Damon, Outfielder/DH, Detroit Tigers
The Tigers tried to dump Damon’s $8 million salary this summer, but the veteran exercised his no-trade clause and refused a deal to the Boston Red Sox.
Management has already told Damon, a Type B free agent, that the Tigers will go in a different direction for a DH this winter. Detroit told Damon that it wants a more prototypical designated hitter, meaning a guy who hits for more power than Damon does.
So with that, Damon moves on without arbitration, as a sandwich pick isn’t enough of a golden carrot to get Detroit to risk getting stuck with Damon and more millions in 2011.
Damon has said he would love to have an opportunity to go back to New York to play with the Yankees next year, but whether the Yankees share similar feelings remains to be seen.
Jamie Moyer, Starting Pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies
If there’s a guy who has gotten more out his ability and career than Jamie Moyer has, I’d like to meet him.
Moyer’s 24 seasons in the big leagues have been fascinating from a consistency and survival perspective.
For Moyer, it’s not about the numbers. His numbers are mediocre. He has 267 career wins because he’s played so long.
It’s about more than that for Moyer.
It’s about a guy that has learned to adapt season after season in order to continue to compete with younger, stronger, better talents than he.
It’s up to Moyer to decide when to walk away from the game, but it appears that his time in Philadelphia is coming to an end. Moyer doesn’t have a free agent status this winter, and the Phillies aren’t going to pay him the same $6.5 million next year that he made in 2010.
Moyer would likely accept arbitration and return to Philadelphia for another year, but that’s not going to happen. I’m sure there’s some National League club that may be interested in Moyer at the back of their rotation, but it won’t be the Phillies.
Kerry Wood, Relief Pitcher, New York Yankees
When the New York Yankees don’t offer Kerry Wood arbitration, it won’t be because of anything he has done.
Wood, since coming to New York from Cleveland midseason, has been fantastic for the Yankees.
Wood stabilized New York’s setup role and posted a 0.69 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 26 innings while with the Yankees.
His mid-90s fastball and sharp slider were as devastating as ever.
But Wood can thank Cleveland’s decision to offer him a lucrative deal two winters ago as the reason why New York won’t offer the Type B free agent arbitration this year.
The Indians handed Wood a two-year deal worth $20.5 million with a 2011 club option worth $11 million to be their closer.
Well, Wood is not closing in Cleveland, and he’s not closing in New York. Some dude named Rivera has that one down.
And that’s really the only reason the Yankees wouldn’t offer arbitration—they aren’t going to pay a setup guy an eight-figure salary.
New York would probably be happy to bring Wood back next year to bolster the bullpen as long as it’s at the right price.
Jeremy Bonderman, Starting Pitcher, Detroit Tigers
Bonderman knows the deal.
His time in Detroit is done if he wants to chase a multi-year deal.
Bonderman has no free agent status and just made $12.5 million in the last year of a $38 million contract.
Those dollars are gone for a guy who has trouble remaining healthy.
Somebody will offer Bonderman a minor league contract with an invite to spring training, but the Tigers have plenty of young arms behind Justin Verlander that need innings.
Bonderman would accept arbitration, which is precisely why it won’t be offered.
Ben Sheets, Starting Pitcher, Oakland A's
Ben Sheets has no free agent status and probably won’t have many substantial offers this winter.
The Oakland A’s had a 2010 payroll of approximately $58 million.
Sheets made approximately 17 percent of that.
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