Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Shifting Priorities

As the semester draws to a close, I'm going to have more time to update this site over the next month and a half. As you can see above (neat blogger trick!), I was able to complete a long piece for Flushing University yesterday and I had a couple of additional thoughts about why some players were not offered arbitration by their current teams.

I still can't believe that 12 Type A free agents (the kind that earn a team two draft picks as compensation for signing with another team) were not offered arbitration, eliminating the draft pick compensation. Those 12 players should become the focus of any smart general manager who wants to add to his roster without hurting his minor-league system.

I know a lot of Mets fans are jonesing for adding Francisco Rodriguez or Brian Fuentes to lock down the closer's spot, but I'm solidly in the Trevor Hoffman camp now. Both K-Rod and Fuentes were offered arbitration and each will require multi-year deals in excess of $10 million per year. Hoffman can be had a one-year deal for half that price, will be nearly as good as any other closer on the market and won't require a long commitment. Best of all, the Padres did not offer him arbitration, so the Mets won't lose a draft pick by signing him.

My recommendation: sign Hoffman for one year and $4 million, then sign Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn or Pat Burrell if any of them will take a contract in the neighborhood of three years and $36 million.

I've been reading speculation that the reason so many Type A free agents weren't offered arbitration is fear by their former clubs that the players would actually accept it, binding those clubs to a one-year deal at a very high rate. Both Arizona and the Yankees had legitimate reason to believe that Dunn and Abreu would command more than $15 million in arbitration and apparently decided that there was too much risk involved just to guarantee two draft picks. Such thinking is short-sighted, of course. Yes, it would've taken a little more work by their respective general managers if either player accepted arbitration, but the Diamondbacks and the Yankees both just gave away valuable assets for nothing because they didn't want to assume any risk.

A premium player on a one-year deal is prime trade bait. Am I supposed to believe that the Diamondbacks couldn't find a taker for Dunn on a one-year deal before Spring Training? Or that the Yankees couldn't do the same for Abreu? Look at it this way - what is more attractive to a general manager in a risk-averse climate because of the struggling economy: one guaranteed year of Adam Dunn, with the first shot at re-signing him if he hits 40 homers for the fifth straight year, or four guaranteed years at roughly the same salary?

As for the Mets, they extended arbitration to Oliver Perez, which means that if he signs with other teams they are guaranteed two draft picks. Ollie was their only Type A free agent and I doubt he's coming back, so the Mets probably guaranteed their picks with this move. Of course, the front office will simply insist that the team adheres to slot recommendations, so the Mets won't take advantage of the flawed amateur draft system anyway.

They did not extend arbitration to Type B free agents Moises Alou or Luis Ayala, so if either player signs with another team the Mets will not receive a draft pick. Ayala will probably find work somewhere, but not offering arbitration is a pretty clear sign that he is not in Minaya's plans for 2009. Let's hope we can say the same about Alou!

No comments: