The Hot Stove League - II

The Hot Stove League - II
Now that you’re well into Thanksgiving Dinner leftovers and stuffed with pro and college football, basketball, and hockey, it’s time to turn your attention back to the Hot Stove League and off-season proceedings.

Last week the Most Valuable Player Awards (Joey Votto in the NL, Josh Hamilton in the AL) and Manager of the Year Awards (Bud Black in the NL, Ron Gardenhire in the AL) were announced. The first of this year’s crop of free agents also began to sign, such as former Toronto Blue Jay catcher John Buck (Florida Marlins) and former Boston Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez (Detroit Tigers). Plus, teams extended arbitration offers to their free agents, some of whom were rated as Type A (top 20% of performers for their position over the last two seasons) or Type B (top 21-40% of performers for their position over the last two seasons). So now we can begin to assess prospects for who will sign with whom and where and maybe even why and what the repercussions will be. Ready? Let’s go!

Every off-season there are a few free agents who grab the headlines and create the most news, this year that would be Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth etc. and even, much to his chagrin, Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees’ captain and icon. The biggest names aren’t always the earliest to sign, and in fact at certain positions there can be little action until the so-called “market makers” sign and teams can start to calculate values.

The Elias Sports Bureau assigns these rankings based on a complicated formula that result in points; now while the Type A-Type B assessments are position-based, the total points are not, ergo a pitcher with, say under 70 points can be Type A (Takashi Saito) while an infielder with 74 points can be Type B (Mark Ellis).

Who gets an arbitration offer and who doesn’t is a complicated dance that is influenced by a number of factors, including draft pick possibilities, potential awards, and perceived value to a team. The Red Sox, for example, offered Victor Martinez arbitration; they would have been happy if he had accepted, but he didn’t. Ergo, right now the Red Sox are entitled to the Tigers’ first-round draft pick next year, but that could change. We’ll get back to that.

MLB protects the first-round picks of the lowest 15 finishers; they can sign as many Type A’s as they like, they will not give up their first round pick (the losing team gets a “sandwich” round pick and the signing team’s second round pick). Additionally, three teams that didn’t sign their 2010 first-round picks (Diamondbacks, Padres, and Brewers) also get an additional first round pick in 2011 so the top 18 picks are protected. The Tigers, at 19, have the first unprotected draft pick.

Let’s say the Tigers, who are also looking for fast outfielders and have boatloads of available money, sign Jayson Werth. Since Werth is the #1 rated free agent, the Phillies would now be entitled to the Tigers’ first-round pick, and the Red Sox would have to be content with their second-round pick.

Teams that sign Type B free agents don’t have to give up any draft picks, the losing teams get supplemental round picks.

Now you’re ready to go. I suggest you watch MLB Network’s Hot Stove programs (6 and 7PM Eastern) and especially their Front Burner episodes (8PM Eastern) Monday through Friday if you want to keep up with the latest news from the best sources. I’m adding two links to valuable resources that help explain the rankings, and compensation.

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