Now that the World Series is over, free agency is heating up. We take a look at the highest-rated major league free agents in our first question below, and the minor league list of six-year free agents should be available later this week. We'll post it as soon as we get it.
We're also in full Prospect Handbook mode, so Ask BA is going to appear every other week for the rest of 2009 while we finish the book. If you have questions that have to be answered, don't forget that we'll be doing 2-3 Top 10 list chats per week and one of us (usually me) will chat on ESPN.com every Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET.
Starting with the 1980-83 Collective Bargaining Agreement, MLB has determined which free agents require compensation by using Elias Sports Bureau calculations based on two years of performance. Players are sorted into position groups by league: catchers; designated hitters, first basemen and outfielders; second basemen, third basemen and shortstops; starting pitchers; and relief pitchers.
All hitters are graded on plate appearances, batting average, on-base percentage, home runs and RBIs. Fielding percentage and assists also are considered for catchers, and fielding percentage and total chances also matter for second basemen, third basemen and shortstops. The categories for pitchers are starts, innings, wins, winning percentage, ERA and strikeouts for starters; and relief appearances, innings, wins plus saves, ERA, hits per nine innings and strikeout/walk ratio for relievers.
Players who rate in the top 20 percent of their position group are designated as Type A free agents, and those in the 21-40 percent bracket are designated as Type B. To receive compensation for a Type A or B free agent, the player's former club must offer him arbitration.
Type A free agents yield the signing team's first-round choice and a supplemental first-rounder, while Type B free agents produce only the sandwich pick. Clubs that finished in the bottom half of the major league standings have their first-round selections protected from compensation, and consolation picks for failure to sign draftees from the previous year can't change hands either. If a team signs multiple Type A free agents, the club that lost the higher-ranking player gets the better pick.
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, and some have 2010 options that may be picked up by their current teams.
|Potential Type A Free Agents
Catchers: Bengie Molina (SF).
First Basemen: None.
Second Basemen: Orlando Hudson (LAD), Placido Polanco (Det).
Third Basemen: Chone Figgins (LAA).
Shortstops: Marco Scutaro (Tor), Miguel Tejada (Hou), Orlando Cabrera (Min).
Outfielders: Matt Holliday (StL), Jason Bay (Bos), Johnny Damon (NYY), Jermaine Dye (CWS).
Starting Pitchers: John Lackey (LAA), Randy Wolf (LAD).
Relief Pitchers: Jose Valverde (Hou), Mike Gonzalez (Atl), Rafael Soriano (Atl), Billy Wagner (Bos), LaTroy Hawkins (Hou), Rafael Betancourt (Col), Darren Oliver (LAA), Kevin Gregg (ChC), John Grabow (ChC), Octavio Dotel (CWS).
|Potential Type B Free Agents
Catchers: Ramon Hernandez (Cin), Jason Varitek (Bos), Ivan Rodriguez (Tex), Jason Kendall (Mil), Rod Barajas (Tor), Yorvit Torrealba (Col), Miguel Olivo (KC), Gregg Zaun (TB).
First Basemen: Fernando Tatis (NYM), Carlos Delgado (NYM), Adam LaRoche (Atl), Nick Johnson (Fla).
Second Basemen: Felipe Lopez (Mil), Ronnie Belliard (LAD).
Third Basemen: Melvin Mora (Bal), Mark DeRosa (StL), Adrian Beltre (Sea), Troy Glaus (StL).
Outfielders: Marlon Byrd (Tex), Vladimir Guerrero (LAA), Xavier Nady (NYY), Brian Giles (SD), Garret Anderson (Atl), Randy Winn (SF), Mike Cameron (Mil).
Starting Pitchers: Rich Harden (ChC), Andy Pettitte (NYY), Vicente Padilla (LAD), Erik Bedard (Sea), Joel Pineiro (StL), Braden Looper (Mil), Jon Garland (LAD), Doug Davis (Ari), Randy Johnson (SF), Jason Marquis (Col), Justin Duchscherer (Oak), Carl Pavano (Min).
Relief Pitchers: Scott Eyre (Phi), Brandon Lyon (Det), Kiko Calero (Fla), Guillermo Mota (LAD), Chan Ho Park (Phi), Bob Howry (SF), Joe Beimel (Col), Will Ohman (LAD), Doug Brocail (Hou), David Weathers (Mil), Russ Springer (TB), Fernando Rodney (Det), Brian Shouse (TB).
The Twins won't get compensation for Cabrera because he has a clause in his contract preventing his team from offering him arbitration. Takashi Saito qualifies as a Type A but isn't listed above because he gained free agency when the Red Sox outrighted him from their 40-man roster, rather than declaring it after they declined his 2010 option.
We listed 74 players on our Red Sox depth chart in the 2009 Prospect Handbook, and Alvarez didn't make it. He's a 20-year-old finesse lefthander who hasn't had much success in full-season ball, and he doesn't have any projection remaining because he's 5-foot-11. The main reason the Marlins traded Hermida was so they wouldn't have to pay him in arbitration, not the talent they received in lefthander Alvarez and Hunter Jones.
I'm an optimist when it comes to prospects I used to like, and I rated Hermida as the game's third-best prospect in the 2006 Prospect Handbook. On the other hand, Hermida has had one good season in the four years he has been a big league starter. Moving from Land Shark Stadium to Fenway Park should help him, but the American League is a lot tougher than the National League.
Hermida has yet to prove he can hit lefthanders. He still has the potential to be a solid regular against righties, but at this point he's more of an insurance policy in case Jason Bay leaves as a free agent and the Red Sox don't find another replacement. Hermida also can fill in should J.D. Drew have injury problems. It's a nice low-risk investment but it probably won't result in a huge payoff.
The cream of the 2006 international crop, Villalona signed for a then-Giants record $2.1 million that summer. He stalled in high Class A this season before his career took an even bigger turn for the worse afterward, when he was arrested in his native Dominican Republic and charged with fatally shooting a man Sept. 19 in a dispute over a seat in a bar.
Villalona was in jail until he was released on bail Nov. 6. The family of the victim, Mario Felix de Jesus Velete, reportedly has requested that all charges be withdrawn—amid rumors of a payoff—but the prosecutor told the Associated Press that his office will proceed with the case.