Tag Archives: Free Agency

Free Agent Review – Cliff Lee to the Phillies


Wow. That’s pretty much all I can say.

With the news overnight that there may have been as much as $50 million left on the table by one Clifton Phifer Lee, it has been a complete shock to see that Cliff Lee has agreed to sign with the Phillies. The terms appear to be for 5 years, $115 million dollars, with an option for a 6th year that might be reasonably achievable.

From the Phillies Perspective

Honestly, I’m not sure I understand this entirely. Clearly, Lee is more than $10 M better than Joe Blanton ($20M salary for Lee, $10.5M for Blanton), but this seems a bit excessive. Adding Lee now brings them a 4th ace to go with Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt for next season. The part that could really kill the Phillies long term is the amount of money they have tied up. The Phillies will most likely have the highest payroll of any team not playing in the Bronx next year, and have a ton of money committed to their roster already for 2012, 2013, and 2014.

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Free Agent Signing – Jayson Werth to the Nationals


It was announced on Sunday evening (to quite a bit of dismay) that the Nationals had signed free agent outfielder Jayson Werth to a free agent contract. The dismay came with the terms of said contract: 7 years, $126 million. I will be attempting to discuss the impacts of this without knowing that Carl Crawford has already signed (and for how much he received).

From the Nationals Perspective

They came out and said that they needed to overpay to get a top flight free agent like Werth to consider a team with so little of a chance of making the playoffs anytime soon. But they felt that they needed to start bringing in marquee players to go with the young core that they are developing. Werth will slot into right field for the Nationals for at least the next couple of seasons, and could possibly move to left field when top prospect Bryce Harper is ready for the show.

I do find the argument that they had to overpay a bit unusual, as the part that seems to have been an overpayment is not the dollars per year, as much as the years themselves. But I also think that it definitely sends a signal to the rest of the league that the Nationals are not happy with being the laughingstock of the National League.

From the Phillies Perspective

There was simply no way that the Phillies were ever going to match an offer as ridiculously large as that for Werth. They have Domonic Brown in AAA, who will most likely be the everyday right fielder for the team before the end of 2011, and at practically no cost in comparison. The Phillies will receive draft picks as compensation, but the Nationals’ first rounder is protected, so they will receive a sandwich pick and the Nationals’ second rounder.

My Thoughts

I didn’t really go into the impact that the signing has on the market, as I think that his signing has a similar effect to the Carl Crawford signing. That said, I am unbelievably amazed that the Nationals gave out such a long and lucrative contract. Werth is 31 years old, and has only had 500+ at bats in 2 seasons. I think that this is the type of contract that could really cause the Nationals some problems if he does not play well throughout the length of it. That said, I never fault the player for taking the money. $126 million is a lot of money. A LOT OF MONEY.

The funny thing that seemed to be noted pretty early on was that the last two contracts of that length and dollar amount exactly have not exactly gone the way their teams had hoped. Those contracts? Barry Zito from the Giants, and Vernon Wells from the Blue Jays.

Free Agency Review – Relief Pitchers


Today I’m finishing up my series of reviews of this offseason’s free agent class, talking about the relief pitchers of the class.

All salary data from ESPN.com’s Free Agent Tracker
All 2011 free agent information from MLB Trade Rumors’ 2011 Free Agent List

Left Handed Relievers
Name Old New Years Total $
Mike Gonzalez ATL BAL 2 $12 M
Billy Wagner BOS ATL 1 $7 M
John Grabow CHC CHC 2 $7.5 M
Darren Oliver LAA TEX 1 $3.5 M

Notable Remaining Free Agents: None

This group of lefty relievers did well, as both Gonzalez and Wagner received high dollar contracts that I, for one, did not really see them getting out of the teams that they did. Gonzalez seems like he was a good signing for the Orioles, as he can help to stabilize the bullpen for the very young rotation they have. Wagner was a bit of an unusual signing, as he was a type-A free agent. The Braves could have kept either Gonzalez or Rafael Soriano without having to give up the draft picks, but felt that Wagner was a better fit instead. That said, there is a certain swagger that Wagner can bring to the club that I don’t think either Gonzalez or Soriano would provide.

Right Handed Relievers
Name Old New Years Total $
Jose Valverde HOU DET 2 $14 M
Fernando Rodney DET LAA 2 $11 M
Rafael Soriano ATL ATL/TAM 1 $7.25 M
Kevin Gregg CHC TOR 1 $2.75 M
Takashi Saito BOS ATL 1 $3.2 M
J.J. Putz NYM CHW 1 $3 M
Octavio Dotel CHW PIT 1 $3.5 M
Rafael Betancourt COL COL 2 $7.55 M
Matt Capps PIT WAS 1 $3.5 M
Kelvim Escobar LAA NYM 1 $1.25 M
LaTroy Hawkins HOU MIL 2 $7.5 M
Brandon Lyon DET HOU 3 $15 M

Notable Remaining Free Agents: Kiko Calero (FLA)

Lots of closers in this group. The Rodney signing was interesting to me, as it signals either one of two things: Rodney isn’t that concerned about being a closer, as he could probably have gotten a job as one with a number of teams, and 2)the Angels have very little faith as Brian Fuentes as the closer. Either way, definitely something to be watched. Washington, Houston, Detroit, and possibly Pittsburgh all got closers off of the free agent pool this year. The other interesting trend was the musical chairs game played by some of the teams, with Valverde and Lyon essentially trading spots, and deciding that the player they don’t know is going to be better than the player they do.

This weekend’s posts: Fantasy Previews of 1B and 2B

Free Agency Review – 2B/SS


Yesterday, I went over this offseason’s free agent catchers, first basemen, and third basemen. Today, the middle infielders.

All salary data from ESPN.com’s Free Agent Tracker
All 2011 free agent information from MLB Trade Rumors’ 2011 Free Agent List

Second Basemen
Name Old New Years Total $
Placido Polanco DET PHI 3 $18 M
Orlando Hudson LAD MIN 1 $5 M
Freddy Sanchez SF SF 2 $12 M

Notable Remaining Free Agents: Felipe Lopez (MIL)

The thing that really stood out to me about the 2B free agents was the fact that Hudson, for a second year in a row, had to wait until nearly Spring Training to find a job. Minnesota is a good fit for him, as he’ll probably slot in near the top of the order and provide some excellent defense up the middle. I also thought it was interesting that Polanco decided to go to Philadelphia, and change positions to move to 3B to do so. I also wonder how much longer Felipe Lopez will be available as a free agent. He seems like too good of a player to still be without a job of some sort, especially considering his ability to play multiple positions in the infield.

Shortstops
Name Old New Years Total $
Marco Scutaro TOR BOS 2 $12 M
Orlando Cabrera MIN CIN 1 $3 M

Shortstop was extremely shallow this offseason. Miguel Tejada was available to play shortstop, but it became clear that no one believed he can be a starting major league shortstop any longer. Beyond Scutaro and Cabrera, nearly all the remaining players who could play shortstop were backups, or simply defensive specialists. Scutaro’s $12 M contract was easily the largest, both in terms of years and dollars. Clearly, by signing Scutaro, the Red Sox decided that they don’t believe Jed Lowrie is a Major League shortstop, either. Cabrera surprises me again this season, as he had a season that was pretty consistent with his career averages, and yet somehow continues to have difficulty finding a job via free agency.

Tomorrow’s free agent positional review: The Outfielders

Free Agency Review – C/1B/3B


All week, I will be recapping the free agency signings this offseason, by position. Today’s group: Catchers and Corner Infielders (1B, 3B)

All salary data from ESPN.com’s Free Agent Tracker
All 2011 free agent information from MLB Trade Rumors’ 2011 Free Agent List

Catchers
Name Old New Years Total $
Bengie Molina SF SF 1 $4.5 M
Miguel Olivo KC COL 1 $2.5 M
Ivan Rodriguez TEX WAS 2 $6 M
Jason Kendall MIL KCR 2 $6 M
Gregg Zaun TAM MIL 1 $2.15 M
John Buck KC TOR 1 $2 M
Brian Schneider NYM PHI 2 $2.75 M
Yorvit Torrealba COL SD 1 $1.25 M

Notable Remaining Free Agents: Rod Barajas (TOR)

There really wasn’t a lot of available jobs for catchers this offseason, as realistically 5 jobs were vacated by free agents. Bengie Molina probably did the best, in my opinion, as he got the highest annual salary ($4.5 M), and managed to go to a team that has a very good prospect waiting in the wings. Of some concern was the fact that Molina had an even better offer on the table from the Mets, and turned it down anyway. Ivan Rodriguez was probably my favorite signing for a specific team, as he should be a real help to the Nationals rotation and lineup with his experience, and his winning track record. Nearly all of these signings are of the low-risk, high-potential variety, and no really big contracts either.

First Basemen
Name Old New Years Total $
Adam LaRoche ATL ARI 1 $6 M
Aubrey Huff DET SF 1 $3 M
Nick Johnson FLA NYY 1 $5.75 M
Troy Glaus STL ATL 1 $1.75 M
Jason Giambi COL COL 1 $1.75 M

Notable Remaining Free Agents: Russell Branyan (SEA), Carlos Delgado (NYM), Hank Blalock (TEX)

This year’s crop of free agent first basemen really didn’t have a lot of high-end talent, with Branyan and LaRoche probably having the best seasons of any of the players available. As a result, we saw exclusively 1 year contracts for most players, and some still looking for work. Branyan is really the biggest surprise, although his published demands early on during the offseason may have scared away a lot of teams. Next year’s class of 1B free agents is extremely strong, including Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Derrek Lee, and Carlos Pena. This may also have contributed to the lack of long contracts, as teams may not want to tie up the position for next season’s bonanza. Another group of lower-risk, higher-potential contracts that if they don’t work, will not really cause any problems for the teams that signed them.

Third Basemen
Name Old New Years Total $
Mark DeRosa STL SF 2 $12 M
Adam Kennedy OAK WAS 1 $1.25 M
Chone Figgins LAA SEA 4 $36 M
Adrian Beltre SEA BOS 1 $10 M
Melvin Mora BAL COL 1 $1.3 M
Garrett Atkins COL BAL 1 $4.5 M
Pedro Feliz PHI HOU 1 $4.5 M
Miguel Tejada HOU BAL 1 $6 M

Notable Remaining Free Agents: Joe Crede (MIN)

3rd base actually had some solid free agent signings, with some big dollars as well. Beltre got the highest annual salary at $10 M from the Red Sox. That contract actually seemed like a bit of a surprise, as the Red Sox still have Mike Lowell who will now be relegated to bench duty. Figgins was the cream of the crop of this group, and got a well-deserved $36 M contract from the Mariners. The other signing I really found interesting was the Miguel Tejada signing. Tejada has never played 3B before, but will be moving to the position in his return to the Orioles. It looks like a really good value signing for the Orioles, and provides some more veteran leadership in the Orioles clubhouse.

Roster Rules – The Rule 4 Amateur Draft


The Rule 4 amateur draft is held each year in June. It is 50 rounds long, and also includes the compensatory picks related to free agency. The draft order is set based on the previous season’s win-loss record, with ties being broken by the team’s win-loss record for the season prior to that.

Eligible Players:

Any players who have not signed a contract who fit the following criteria:

  • Resident of the U.S., Canada, or any U.S. territory
  • They must have graduated from high school, but not attended college
  • They must have attended a 4 year college and be either 21, or in their junior or senior year.
  • They must have attended a community or junior college.

Once a player is drafted, they have a certain window to sign a contract with a team. For most players, that window ends on August 15th. College seniors who have graduated (or run out of eligibility), have a longer window, due to their not being able to return to school any longer. If a team fails to sign their pick, they may potentially receive a compensation pick in the following year’s draft, depending on what round the player was drafted in.

If a player does not sign by the end of their window, their age will determine when they will be eligible to be drafted again. For players drafted out of high school, they will not be eligible until they meet the requirements for college players. For college players, they will be eligible in the following year’s draft. Notable examples in previous years include Aaron Crow, and Tanner Scheppers.

Each year, the office of the Commissioner gives out guidelines for what the signing bonus of each pick in the draft should be. The logic is that the best player available should be the top selection, and receive the highest signing bonus. This is also known as the slotting system. However, many teams do not adhere to it, as it is not a requirement to do so.

Analysis:

Since players drafted generally take between 2 to 4 years to make an impact at the major league level, organizations try to minimize their risk at the draft. This can include drafting players based on signability rather than talent, drafting lower ceiling players with a higher potential to reach their ceiling, and avoiding talented players with makeup concerns. This can lead to some unusual choices from time to time.

The slotting system does not help teams to land the top players available all the time, since it is only a suggestion and not a requirement. A great example was Rick Porcello. When Porcello was eligible to be drafted, he was widely viewed as a top-5 draft pick. However, knowledge of his contract demands became public, and many teams shied away from him due to concerns about signability. Since he was a high school student, if he didn’t sign, he could simply go to college, and wait 2 years to be drafted again. As a result, he fell to the end of the first round, when he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers, and received a contract well over the slot suggested by the commissioner’s office. The Tigers were willing to pay him what it took to get him signed. The reason that this has become a bigger problem is that it works, as evidenced by the season that Porcello had in 2009. If he had not signed with the Tigers, he would have been eligible to be drafted this coming season in 2010. The Tigers’ willingness to pay Porcello what he believed he was worth impacted this season, as well as future ones as well.

Also, the fact that international players are not subject to the draft has become a point of contention. All international players who have not signed contracts are considered to be free agents, and a player can be signed after June 2nd of the year that they turned 16. As a result, teams that can offer better development opportunities and better money will generally get these players, leaving the other teams out of the process.

The Rule 4 draft is going to be a hot topic of discussion when the next collective bargaining agreement negotiations begin, and could very well see some large-scale changes with wide-ranging impacts on the market for players.

Sources:
Wikipedia
Sons of Sam Horn

Links for 11/9/09


Some links for today…

Some Other Moves from Last Week


Now that the World Series is over, we will start seeing a flurry of transactions in the coming days. Last week was no exception. I’ve already discussed the J.J. Hardy-Carlos Gomez trade, but wanted to make mention of some of the other moves completed last week.

Philadelphia exercised Cliff Lee’s 2010 option. No surprise here. Cliff pitched amazingly down the stretch for the Phillies. Now they need to start working on a contract extension and keep him there even longer.
Manny Ramirez will return to the Dodgers on his exercised option. Also not a huge surprise to me here. Manny likes it in Los Angeles, and probably knew that he would never get $20 million on the open market this season.
Brandon Webb had his 2010 option exercised as well. Based on how much the buyout was ($2 M), it wasn’t a huge surprise that it was picked up. Well worth the risk in my opinion.
Jermaine Dye had his option for 2010 bought out, and became a free agent. He’ll catch on somewhere, as he is still a productive outfielder. Just not at the price of his 2010 option.