The arbitration tender deadline has come and gone, and unsurprisingly, many players were not tendered arbitration contracts they had the right to accept or reject.
Also unsurprisingly, Boston offered arbitration to its two eligible players: Jason Bay and Billy Wagner. Let’s run through the implications for offering arbitration to the two, and then take a look at players who’s possible Boston future was impacted by their club’s decision.
JASON BAY: Depending on who you talk to, Bay is either the top, or second-top, bat on the market. His free agent value is not compromised by this decision. If Boston brings him back, obviously they don’t get additional draft picks. If they lose him, the odds are they lose him to a team whose first-round pick is not protected. (The bottom 15.) This will give them an extra first-round pick as well as a compensatory pick (the round in between the first and second). Assuming that a team in the bottom 15 does sign him, however (like the Mets), the Sox will get the compensatory pick and the Mets’ second round pick. There’s been conflicting reports on if the Sox like Bay or Holliday better, but can you believe that Boston may actually be better off signing Holliday from a drafting perspective? I bring this up in the Matt Holiday section.
BILLY WAGNER: By offering arbitration to Wagner, Boston depresses Wagner’s asking price, which puts Boston in a great position. Those who might be willing to give up their first round pick for Wagner only if Wagner would at an affordable deal are now in play… as Wagner is going to be forced to ask for less. And heck, those that have money to burn might bring in more than one Type-A, which would benefit Boston in giving them a compensatory round pick and their second/third rounder.
Those teams in the bottom 15 know that Wagner is now more affordable to them given the price and their ability in not losing the first-round pick. There are many moving parts that end up with Boston grabbing two draft picks. That’s not shabby for a player they acquired for Chris Carter, a 4A player in Boston.
If Wagner accepts arbitration with the team, you have to love his arm setting up Jonathan Papelbon this coming year. He’s certain, even in arbitration, to accept a greatly reduced salary. Even if it’s something like $5 million, Wagner could be worth every penny.
Okay, other players that may be in play with Boston…
ADRIAN BELTRE/NICK JOHNSON: If you think that Boston needs to sign a third-baseman or a first-baseman, there won’t be any problems here. Beltre was offered arbitration, while Nick Johnson wasn’t. Both are Type-B free agents, so there’s no bearing on their free agent value here.
JERMAINE DYE: As a Type-A, it was a no-brainer for Chicago to decline. They’re not interested in bringing Dye back and by depressing Dye’s value significantly with the arbitration offer, he would have been likely to return. I promoted Dye as a possible Red Sox back when evaluating left-field candidates not named Bay or Holliday.
MIKE GONZALEZ/RAFAEL SORIANO: Gonzalez and Soriano are paired here because they both are coming from Atlanta, both are seeking multi-year deals and both hope to market themselves as closers… as well as both being Type-A players. Boston’s expressed interest in Soriano and I would hope have discussed Gonzalez. If the team is going to sign Matt Holliday, then chasing Gonzalez or Soriano to bolster the bullpen makes sense. Is a setup man worth a first-round pick? Doubtful. Worth a second? At that point, it may behoove Boston to enter the sweepstakes.
RICH HARDEN: Harden was not offered arbitration. As a Type-B (meaning no team would have lost a pick and Chicago would have grabbed a compensation pick) player, this is rather surprising. His free agent value remains unchanged. We learned last night that Boston is serious about signing Harden.
MATT HOLLIDAY: Holliday was offered arbitration by the Cardinals. As a Type-A free agent, Boston might stand to benefit more by signing Matt Holliday over Bay — assuming the team prefers Holliday’s age, defense and offense, of course. How? Well, Boston would lose its first round pick to the Cardinals. But if the team that signs Bay has it’s first round pick available, Boston would actually move up in the draft. To argue, then, that signing Holliday would cause Boston to lose it’s first round pick is not exactly true. It may even strengthen Boston’s drafting position. Of course, it could all be for naught and a bottom 15 team could sign Bay. If so, it’s not exactly the end of the world to go from an end of the first round pick to an early second round pick.
MIGUEL TEJADA: Tejada was a Type A free agent whose value on the market just soared thanks to the Astros declining arbitration on the shortstop. Tejada’s value, as covered in a shortstop roundup here, is a bit sketchy. His defense is either good, average or bad, depending who you talk to or what numbers you look at. His home/road splits show that he really, really liked Minute Maid Park. And as for his overall offensive resurgence, there’s nothing in the data that suggests it’s repeatable. That said, he’s one of the best bats on the market.