The Elias Sports Bureau statistical rankings have been released, so we can take our first look at which free agents could command draft-pick compensation this offseason.
Players who rate in the top 20 percent of their position group (catchers; first basemen, outfielders and DHs; second basemen, third basemen and shortstops; starting pitchers; and relief pitchers) are designated as Type A. Players who rank in the 21-40 percent bracket are designated as Type B.
If a Type A or B free agent's former club offers him arbitration, then it will receive compensation if he signs elsewhere. Type A free agents yield the signing team's first-round choice and a supplemental first-rounder, while Type Bs return only the sandwich-rounder. Clubs who finished in the bottom half of the major league standings can't surrender their first-round selection, and compensation picks for failure to sign draftees from the previous year can't change hands either.
With that out of the way, below are the potential Type A and B free agents by position (listed in order of Elias ranking). Not all of these players have filed for free agency yet.
|Potential Type A Free Agents
Catchers: Jason Varitek (Bos).
First Basemen: Mark Teixeira (LAA).
Second Basemen: Orlando Hudson (Ari).
Shortstops: Orlando Cabrera (CWS), Edgar Renteria (Det).
Outfielders: Manny Ramirez (LAD), Raul Ibanez (Sea), Bob Abreu (NYY), Adam Dunn (Ari), Pat Burrell (Phi), Brian Giles (SD).
Starting Pitchers: C.C. Sabathia (Mil), A.J. Burnett (Tor), Andy Pettitte (NYY), Mike Mussina (NYY), Ben Sheets (Mil), Oliver Perez (NYM), Derek Lowe (LAD), Jamie Moyer (Phi).
Relief Pitchers: Francisco Rodriguez (LAA), Brian Fuentes (Col), Russ Springer (StL), Damaso Marte (NYY), Ryan Dempster (ChC), Juan Cruz (Ari), Kerry Wood (ChC), Trevor Hoffman (SD), Doug Brocail (Hou), Darren Oliver (LAA), Bob Howry (ChC).
Potential Type B Free Agents
Catchers: Ivan Rodriguez (NYY), Greg Zaun (Tor), Paul LoDuca (Fla).
Second Basemen: Jeff Kent (LAD), Juan Uribe (CWS), Mark Loretta (Hou), Mark Grudzielanek (KC).
Third Basemen: Casey Blake (LAD), Hank Blalock (Tex).
Outfielders: Garret Anderson (LAA), Moises Alou (NYM), Ken Griffey Jr. (CWS), Luis Gonzalez (Fla), Mike Cameron (Mil).
Designated Hitters: Milton Bradley (Tex), Frank Thomas (Oak).
Starting Pitchers: John Smoltz (Atl), Brad Penny (LAD), Jon Garland (LAA), Randy Wolf (Hou), Paul Byrd (Bos), Greg Maddux (LAD), Braden Looper (StL), Randy Johnson (Ari).
Relief Pitchers: Alan Embree (Oak), Brian Shouse (Mil), Jason Isringhausen (StL), Dave Weathers (Cin), Brandon Lyon (Ari), Salomon Torres (Mil), Jeremy Affeldt (Cin), Arthur Rhodes (Fla), Joe Beimel (LAD), LaTroy Hawkins (Hou), Dennys Reyes (Min), Rudy Seanez (Phi), Luis Ayala (NYM), Eric Gagne (Mil).
Draft-eligible sophomores rarely go as high as their talent would merit because teams fear their extra leverage will make them more difficult to sign. Unlike juniors, sophomore-eligibles can re-enter the following year's draft and still have college eligibility remaining.
In the past two years, we've ranked 13 college sophomores in our annual Top 200 Draft Prospects lists. Only six of those 13 went in the first five rounds of the draft, and only one of those 13 went in the first five rounds and signed for more than slot money. That was Brad Suttle, whose $1.3 million bonus from the Yankees in 2007 set a record for a fourth-rounder.
While draft-eligible sophomores continued to sink in the draft this year, teams were more willing to pay to sign them when MLB didn't harangue them as much about watching the bottom line. In 2007, only five college sophomores signed in the first 10 rounds, and Suttle was the only one in the entire draft to exceed slot money.
Five college sophomores signed in the first 10 rounds again this year, but they included three slot-busters: Cole Figueroa (Padres), whose $400,000 bonus was the third-highest in the sixth round; Tim Fedroff (Indians), whose $725,000 bonus was the second-largest among seventh-rounders; and Stephen Caseres (Dodgers), whose $250,000 bonus ranked tops in the ninth round. The Indians also shelled out $725,000 for 22nd-rounder Bryce Stowell and the Athletics paid $675,000 for 28th-rounder Dusty Coleman after both starred in the Cape Cod League during the summer.
Unless they convince teams they'll sign quickly for slot money, Davis, LeMahieu and Tolleson may slip in the 2009 draft. But if teams are as generous as they were in 2008, it's likely that they'll sign.
Those three are the highest-ranking sophomores on our soon-to-unveiled 2009 college prospect rankings. Others to watch include lefthander Bryan Morgado (Tennessee) and righthanders Craig Fritsch (Baylor), Drew Storen (Stanford), Graham Stoneburner (Clemson) and Sam Dyson (South Carolina).
Priority No. 1 should be figuring out if Clement can be a regular catcher in the big leagues. He should hit for power and some average, but he has yet to make scouts believe that his throwing, receiving and agility are up to par for a big league backstop. I'd let Clement play two-thirds of the games behind the plate and mix in some DHing, with Johnson serving as his backup. Johnson is also versatile enough to pick up some extra at-bats as an outfielder.
Moore still needs to polish his defense, so spending the bulk of 2009 in Triple-A would be good for his development.
As for Johjima? The three-year, $24 million deal that ownership (and not former GM Bill Bavasi) gave him was a mistake with all the catching depth the Mariners had on hand. Johjima didn't help matters by falling apart at the plate, and even when he was passable offensively in his first two seasons in the United States, he didn't hit enough to merit playing at another position.
There are plenty of teams that need catchers. New GM Jack Zduriencik should be willing to eat most of Johjima's contract so he can trade him for a mid-level prospect. Seattle isn't close to contending, and Johjima isn't going to be part of the solution.
Prospect season is definitely upon us. We'll unveil our first organization Top 10 Wednesday with the Orioles, and we'll post our Yankees Top 10 next week.
As a sneak preview, I'll tell you that outfielder Austin Jackson ranks No. 1 on our Yankees list. Catcher Jesus Montero is No. 2, and as for the rest, you'll have to wait until Friday. Unless you subscribe, in which case our AL East Top 10 issue should be in your mailbox before then.
If you want even more prospect rankings for the Yankees (or any other team), don't forget that we go 30 deep for each system in the 2009 Prospect Handbook.