The Elias Sports Bureau has released its 2005-2006 player rankings, which determine what draft picks are used as compensation for free agents.
In something of a surprise, outfielder David Dellucci and left-hander Aaron Fultz both earned Type A status, meaning, they ranked among the top 30 percent in their position grouping, and will earn the Phillies an amateur draft pick from a signing club as compensation. Catcher Mike Lieberthal also ranked as a Type A free agent. Arthur Rhodes is a Type B, and Rick White is listed as a Type C.
Data is compiled over the last two seasons, combining statistics such as batting average, plate appearances, home runs and runs batted in for hitters, and starts, innings, earned-run average, saves and strikeouts for pitchers. The statistics vary from position to position.
Beerleaguer take: Contract jargon is not my bread and butter, but I’ll do my best to put this news in perspective. Feel free to chime in if I've overlooked something.
Had this been 2007, Dellucci and Fultz would have likely become Type B free agents. Because of the new collective bargaining agreement, Type A free agents will be redefined to top 20 percent at position (from top 30 percent) beginning in 2007. The new rules for Type B and C take effect this season. Dellucci, in particular, made the Type A cutoff by the skin of his teeth. Fultz, on the other hand, ranked much higher at his position, 30 out of 43 Type A relievers, which is just a little silly to me.
For someone like Dellucci, who the Phillies have expressed interest in retaining, his Type A status could make him a little more unattractive to potential bidders because of the compensation draft picks, and it’s almost a lock the Phillies will offer him arbitration to insure themselves some compensation.
What does that mean? Honestly, I needed to do a little research, and came across this 2001 article by Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus which put it all in perspective. As it turns out, offering arbitration to a free agent is a fairly simple process, with a clear outcome, he writes.
- Offer arbitration, and you can continue negotiating with that player, while assuring yourself compensatory draft picks if the players signs with another team.
- Decline to offer arbitration, and effectively end your relationship with him (the player cannot rejoin your team until May 1), while forfeiting the right to compensation.
"If a team offers arbitration, the player has a couple of weeks to decide whether to accept it. If he does, he is considered to be that team's property again, returns to their 40-man roster, and the two parties can negotiate or have a hearing in February to determine compensation. If he declines, then he only has until early January to reach an agreement with his old team, or he cannot return to them until May 15.
"Let's take a look at the first possibility, the one in which the team elects to offer arbitration. There are three potential outcomes:
- The player accepts. The team is committed to a one-year deal at, in a worst-case scenario, the player’s salary request in arbitration.
- The player declines. The team has a few weeks to sign the player, but will receive compensatory draft picks if unable to do so, assuming the player signs elsewhere.
- The player signs elsewhere before the deadline. The team will receive compensatory draft picks from the signing team.
"That's it. The last two are essentially the same, so for the team, the worst thing that can happen is they go to arbitration with the player is a one-year commitment, and they're guaranteed to get something back if the player goes elsewhere. Of course, all free agents good enough to require compensation are looking for the security of a multi-year contract, so the risk of going to arbitration is minimal."
From the Phillies perspective, it’s kind of a win-win. Dellucci is someone they could use next season in a platoon or off the bench, if he were to accept a one-year commitment. Plus, he’s attractive in a trade, just as he was last season when no less than 10 teams scouted him at the trade deadline. If he signs elsewhere, which seems more likely, the Phillies get compensated with picks.
Meanwhile, it would make little sense to offer arbitration to Mike Lieberthal. The team could get saddled with a one-year, $7 million deal if he accepts. It would be better to just let him walk and forget the picks.
The team faces a tough situation with Aaron Fultz, whose Type A status may not be a blessing. They may or may not offer arbitration. The problem is, it’s less likely a team will take a chance on him and relinquish a first-round pick, and at his age, he may not be a player the Phillies necessarily want back, even for one year.
The biggest story of the offseason is their outfield situation. The latest news is that Aaron Rowand and the Phils both declined their options, and will renegotiate or head to arbitration on a deal somewhere in the $4-4.5 million range. To a greater degree than Dellucci, Rowand could be valuable to have and to hold, or trade away to a team like the White Sox who need help in center field.
Either way, outfield does not appear flexible enough at this stage to add someone the likes of Alfonso Soriano. Yeah, they’re going to make a preliminary offer, but the reality is they have other business to settle first. The Phillies are facing three separate contract situations in their outfield, including Pat Burrell’s remaining $27 million.