Arbitration decisions due Tuesday.
Tomorrow’s the deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their own free agents in order to lock in their right to draft pick compensation should the players sign elsewhere.
A team losing a Type A free agent (ranked by the Elias Sports Bureau to be in the top 20 percent in their position grouping, according to a classified formula that only David Ortiz has access to) that it offered arbitration to (or that signed elsewhere before tomorrow’s deadline) gets two picks as compensation: the signing team’s first-rounder the following June if that team drafts in the back half of the round or its second-rounder if it drafts in the front half, plus a “sandwich pick” that’s not actually forfeited but instead part of a manufactured supplemental round between rounds one and two.
A team losing a Type B free agent (ranked in the 21-40 percent grouping) that it offered arbitration to (or that signed elsewhere before tomorrow’s deadline) gets a sandwich pick – the player’s new team forfeits nothing.
Last winter Texas had no Type A free agents, and two Type B’s, Marlon Byrd and Ivan Rodriguez. The Rangers offered arbitration to each (I explained in a report on December 1 why even the Rodriguez offer was no surprise), netting a sandwich pick when they signed with the Cubs and Nationals. With those picks, Texas drafted and eventually signed Florida high school righthander Luke Jackson and University of Connecticut third baseman Mike Olt.
It’s a different situation this off-season, as Texas has no Type B’s – but four Type A’s: Cliff Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Frankie Francisco, and Bengie Molina. (The club also has three no-compensation free agents: Jorge Cantu, Cristian Guzman, and Matt Treanor.)
Interestingly, the Rangers probably would have preferred that Guerrero and Molina and particular would have been Type B’s. Even though the return compensation is one premium pick instead of two, a Type B designation would have meant no disincentive for another team to sign the player. A team tentatively interested in Guerrero or Molina as Type A’s might decide surrendering a first- or second-round pick for the player isn’t worth the signing, whereas a Type B designation wouldn’t affect the signing team at all and would virtually assure Texas the sandwich pick in each case if the player signed elsewhere. And to complete the picture, Texas may not want to offer Guerrero or Molina arbitration because of the risk that they’d accept it, as the arbitration process would probably generate a 2011 salary for each that exceeds what the Rangers would want to pay.
The deadline for free agents to accept arbitration offers is a week from tomorrow.
The easy decision is on Lee, who the Rangers will obviously offer arbitration to (no downside), and who will obviously decline the offer. Texas will either sign Lee, or get the Yankees’ first-rounder and a supplemental first. (The only exception, assuming New York is the team he were to leave for, would be if the Yankees also signed Jayson Werth or Rafael Soriano, as they’re the only two Type A’s with higher rankings than Lee. If the Yankees signed Werth and Lee, for instance, Philadelphia would get their first-round pick in June, and Texas would get their second-rounder.)
(Anecdote: Arizona signed Rangers free agent Todd Stottlemyre after the 1998 season, which normally would have resulted in the Rangers receiving the Diamondbacks’ second-round pick along with the sandwich pick – but Arizona also signed Randy Johnson and Greg Swindell that winter, meaning Houston got the Diamondbacks’ second-rounder, Boston got their third, and the Rangers got their fourth. Interestingly, though, Texas made the best pick in June, as the Astros took high school catcher Jay Perez [who never reached the big leagues] with the second-round pick, the Red Sox took high school lefthander Rich Rundles [six big league innings] with the third, and the Rangers took Kevin Mench with the fourth. The Rangers drafted Colby Lewis with the sandwich pick they got for the loss of Stottlemyre.)
Guerrero and Molina, tougher calls. Francisco’s not a slam dunk, either, though assuming the Rangers aren’t concerned that there could be long-term effects from his ribcage strain, he’ll probably get an offer. Especially given the way that the middle relief market has been set with Joaquin Benoit’s Detroit contract, Francisco’s market value is likely greater than his arbitration value, even with the draft pick forfeiture attached – and the Rangers would presumably be willing to take him back on a one-year, arbitration-driven salary if he were to accept the club’s arbitration offer by November 30.
One other factor: Day One of the 2011 draft is expected to be much stronger than it was in 2010. The prospect of adding multiple picks in the top round or two (and paying the seven-figure bonuses) will be more appealing this coming year, and not just because Texas will likely have more money to spend.
There’s also the matter of whether other teams will offer arbitration to their own free agents and how that could affect the Rangers’ plans. Texas is already reported to have interest in Type A free agent Victor Martinez, for instance, and he would cost the club’s first-round pick to sign; the Rangers may have heightened interest in other Type A’s who are not offered arbitration and thus wouldn’t cost a pick. Last winter, Darren Oliver fit that description. Could someone like Magglio Ordonez this time around?
More on all of this once the Rangers and everyone else make their free agent arbitration decisions, due to be submitted to the league tomorrow night.