The departure of valuable free agents can be an important part of an organization’s renewal.
If teams offer salary arbitration to their top free agents only to see them reject the offer and sign with other teams, they can receive draft pick compensation. The top class of free agents — known as Type A free agents — as determined by a formula from the Elias Sports Bureau net two top picks (usually either a first- or second-round pick from the team that signs the player, as well as a sandwich round pick between the first and second rounds). A second tier of free agents — Type B — net a team a sandwich-round pick.
The Sox have acquired a number of key prospects through compensation picks, including: Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price (both part of the trade for Victor Martinez), Bryce Brentz, Anthony Ranaudo and others.
While revised draft rules are currently under negotiation between the owners and the Players’ Association, those rules are not expected to impact this year’s class of free agents. Instead, the “old” rules of draft pick compensation are believed by multiple sources to apply to this year’s free agent class.
That, in turn, may have played a part in a Red Sox option decision today. Reliever Dan Wheeler is a Type B free agent. The Sox held a $3 million option on his contract for the 2012 season. While that isn’t unreasonable for a right-handed reliever with a strong track record (especially prior to the 2011 season) in the AL East, the Sox declined the option. Now, they have the option to offer Wheeler arbitration and get a draft pick if he signs with another club.
MLBTradeRumors.com offered a full list of Type A and Type B free agents here. Among the Red Sox players who have filed for free agency, here are the notable ones who could entitle the club to draft pick compensation:
Type A — David Ortiz
Type A — Jonathan Papelbon
Type B — Dan Wheeler (team option)
Type B — Jason Varitek
The Sox have been talking to Ortiz during the exclusive negotiating window between teams and their own free agents. As of this weekend, WEEI.com reported on Sunday, there had been no contact between the Sox and Papelbon.
Wheeler was 2-2 with a 4.38 ERA, 1.115 WHIP, 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.5 walks per nine. The Rhode Island native started the year poorly, carrying an ERA of 11.32 when he landed on the disabled list for the first time of his career in the first week of May. After returning, he was one of the Sox’ most effective relievers, with a 1.53 ERA from mid-May through the beginning of September. However, a forearm injury rendered him ineffective and then unavailable for most of September (another of the many causes of the Sox’ September collapse), leading to his season-ending numbers.
As for Varitek, the Sox did not offer him arbitration when he was a Type B free agent last year, based on the expectation that he would accept (coming off a $3 million salary in 2010, the second year of a two-year, $8 million deal). This year, Varitek is once again a Type B, though he had a lower base salary ($2 million), which could have an impact on whether or not he is offered arbitration, insofar as — if he accepted — he would be in line for a lower salary this year than had he accepted arbitration a year ago.
The Sox also declined their option on Scott Atchison, who would have earned $200,000 over the major league minimum. He remains on the club’s 40-man roster, however, after going 1-0 with a 3.26 ERA in 17 big league games spanning 30 1/3 innings. The 35-year-old right-hander is out of options, but fell just short of arbitration eligibility. That being the case, the Sox can set his salary for 2012.