Pre-Winter Meetings Update
The Winter Meetings begin on Monday with league officials, club executives, player agents, writers, exhibitors, and job seekers (including players) all gathering in Orlando to play baseball's version of "Let's Make a Deal."
There will be more rumors circulating Disney's Epcot Center this week than free agent signings, trades, and players selected in the Rule 5 draft. Yes, the action will be both real and imagined. More gossip will make the rounds than at a slumber party.
In the meantime, teams were required to offer salary arbitration to free agents no later than yesterday. Players offered arbitration have until December 7 to accept. Unlike in years past, those who were not offered arbitration may still sign with their old teams without having to wait until May 1.
Type A free agents, defined as those ranked in the top 30% of players at their positions, will cost the acquiring team a first-round pick (or a second-round choice in the case of clubs with one of the top 15 slots) in the Rule 4 draft next June. The "losing" club also receives a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds. Teams that sign Type B free agents (the next 20%) do not forfeit any picks although the "losing" club receives a "sandwich" round selection. There is no compensation for players who rank in the bottom half (formerly known as Type C free agents) under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Here is a list of the 25 free agents who were offered arbitration. (Note: The Rich Aurilia (2/$8M w/ SF), David Dellucci (3/$11.5M w/ CLE), Jose Guillen (1/$5M w/ SEA), Roberto Hernandez (2/$12M w/ CLE), Carlos Lee (6/$100M w/ HOU) and Dave Roberts (3/$18M w/ SF) signings had not been finalized as of the deadline.)
BOSTON: Keith Foulke, rhp.
NEW YORK: Ron Villone, lhp (Type B).
OAKLAND: Barry Zito, lhp (Type A).
SEATTLE: Gil Meche, rhp (B).
TEXAS: Carlos Lee, of (A); Vicente Padilla, rhp (B).
TORONTO: Ted Lilly, lhp (B).
ARIZONA: Miguel Batista, rhp (B).
CINCINNATI: Rich Aurilia, 3b (A); Scott Schoeneweis, lhp (B).
LOS ANGELES: Julio Lugo, ss (A).
MILWAUKEE: Tony Graffanino, 2b.
NEW YORK: Roberto Hernandez, rhp (A); Guillermo Mota, rhp (B).
PHILADELPHIA: David Dellucci, of (A).
ST. LOUIS: Mark Mulder, lhp (B); Jeff Suppan, rhp (A).
SAN DIEGO: Alan Embree, lhp (B); Ryan Klesko, 1b (B); Chan Ho Park, rhp (B); Dave Roberts, of (A); Todd Walker, 2b (A); David Wells, lhp (B).
SAN FRANCISCO: Jason Schmidt, rhp (A).
WASHINGTON: Jose Guillen, of (B).
Here is the list of the 114 free agents not offered arbitration:
BALTIMORE: Bruce Chen, lhp; Chris Gomez, ss; LaTroy Hawkins, rhp; Kevin Millar, 1b; Russ Ortiz, rhp; Fernando Tatis, 3b; Chris Widger, c.
BOSTON: Gabe Kapler, of; Mark Loretta, 2b; Doug Mirabelli, c; Trot Nixon, of.
CHICAGO: Sandy Alomar Jr., c; Dustin Hermanson, rhp; Jeff Nelson, rhp; David Riske, rhp.
CLEVELAND: Aaron Boone, 3b; Lou Merloni, 2b.
DETROIT: Troy Percival, rhp; Matt Stairs, of.
KANSAS CITY: Paul Bako, c; Doug Mientkiewicz, 1b; Mark Redman, lhp.
LOS ANGELES: Darin Erstad, of; J.C. Romero, lhp.
MINNESOTA: Phil Nevin, 1b; Brad Radke, rhp; Shannon Stewart, of; Rondell White, of.
NEW YORK: Miguel Cairo, 2b; Octavio Dotel, rhp; Tanyon Sturtze, rhp; Bernie Williams, of; Craig Wilson, of.
OAKLAND: Steve Karsay, rhp; Jay Payton, of.
SEATTLE: Eduardo Perez, 1b.
TAMPA BAY: Brian Meadows, rhp; Tomas Perez, ss.
TEXAS: Rod Barajas, c; Eric Young, 2b.
TORONTO: Bengie Molina, c.
ARIZONA: Luis Gonzalez, of.
ATLANTA: Brian Jordan, of; Todd Pratt, c; John Thomson, rhp; Daryle Ward, 1b.
CHICAGO: John Mabry, 1b.
CINCINNATI: Ryan Franklin, rhp; Eddie Guardado, lhp; Todd Hollandsworth, of; Jason Johnson, rhp; Kent Mercker, lhp; David Weathers, rhp; Paul Wilson, rhp.
COLORADO: Vinny Castilla, 3b; Mike DeJean, rhp; Ray King, lhp; Tom Martin, lhp; Jose Mesa, rhp.
FLORIDA: Joe Borowski, rhp; Matt Herges, rhp; Brian Moehler, rhp.
HOUSTON: Jeff Bagwell, 1b; Roger Clemens, rhp; Aubrey Huff, 3b; Andy Pettitte, lhp; Russ Springer, rhp.
LOS ANGELES: Einar Diaz, c; Eric Gagne, rhp; Kenny Lofton, of; Greg Maddux, rhp; Aaron Sele, rhp.
MILWAUKEE: David Bell, 3b; Jeff Cirillo, 3b; Rick Helling, rhp; Dan Kolb, rhp; Tomo Ohka, rhp.
NEW YORK: Mike DiFelice, c; Cliff Floyd, of; Yusaku Iriki, rhp; Ricky Ledee, of; Darren Oliver, lhp; Steve Trachsel, rhp; Michael Tucker, rf; Chris Woodward, ss.
PHILADELPHIA: Aaron Fultz, lhp; Alex S. Gonzalez, ss; Jose Hernandez, ss; Mike Lieberthal, c; Arthur Rhodes, lhp; Rick White, rhp.
PITTSBURGH: Jeromy Burnitz, of; Joe Randa, 3b.
ST. LOUIS: Ronnie Belliard, 2b; Jason Marquis, rhp; Jose Vizcaino, ss; Jeff Weaver, rhp; Preston Wilson, of.
SAN DIEGO: Doug Brocail, rhp; Shawn Estes, lhp; Sterling Hitchcock, lhp; Mike Piazza, c; Rudy Seanez, rhp.
SAN FRANCISCO: Barry Bonds, lf; Pedro Feliz, 3b; Steve Finley, cf; Todd Greene, c; Shea Hillenbrand, 1b; Steve Kline, lhp; Jamey Wright, rhp.
WASHINGTON: Tony Armas Jr., rhp; Robert Fick, 1b; Ramon Ortiz, rhp.
Jeff Bagwell is effectively retired so it was no surprise that the Astros failed to offer him arbitration. An argument could be made for or against offering arbitration to teammates Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. Houston declined in both cases, apparently unsure as to what an arbitrator might award and not being particularly concerned about the compensation in the event either or both signs elsewhere.
Other big names who were not offered arbitration include Barry Bonds, Eric Gagne, Greg Maddux, Mike Piazza, and Bernie Williams. Without arbitration, Bonds will be hard-pressed to find a team willing to pay him more than $10M per year. Gagne will be lucky to do much better than Kerry Wood in terms of base salary, although I wouldn't be surprised if he was able to entice a club to give him incentives that could add up to over $5M. Given Glavine's deal, Maddux could easily ask for - and perhaps be granted - $10+M, a gamble the Dodgers were not interested in undertaking. The Padres had already declined an $8M option on Piazza and most likely didn't want to subject themselves to the whims and ways of an arbitrator. Williams will either sign with the Yankees or retire.
I thought it was interesting that the Cardinals offered Mark Mulder and Jeff Suppan arbitration but not Jeff Weaver. These moves may give us an indication of who Walt Jocketty would like to keep, but it is also defensible from a strategic point of view. Mulder is more likely to come cheaper than Weaver, whereas Suppan, as a Type A free agent, could bring a first-round pick in the next amateur draft.
Under the terms of J.D. Drew's contract, the Dodgers were not able to offer him arbitration. Although Drew would have been a Type A free agent, the Dodgers will not receive any compensation when he signs with his new club (rumored to be the Boston Red Sox any day).
Moises Alou, SF: Signed with the NYM (1/$8.5M).
Best: Mike Mussina and Aramis Ramirez. Two star players at salaries that don't look so outlandish relative to others. Hard to give the Cubs too much love, given the opt out clause that allowed Ramirez to negotiate a multi-million dollar per year raise.
Worst: Danys Baez. Oh my!
Craig Biggio, HOU: Re-signed with HOU (1/$5.15M).
Best: Adam Kennedy. Not exciting by any means but a reasonable value.
Worst: Juan Pierre and Jamie Walker. Hard to believe the Dodgers would marry Pierre when they could have dated Kenny Lofton for another year, especially with Matt Kemp in waiting. Makes you wonder if the latter might not be used as trade bait to get the bat Ned Colletti covets.
Gary Bennett, STL: Re-signed with STL (1/$900K).
Best: Kerry Wood. Lots of upside and very little downside.
Worst: Adam Eaton certainly stands out as one of the most ridiculous signings of the offseason, at least in terms of his place in the Elias rankings. His contract also sets the floor for many of the remaining free agent starters.