How A Good Contract Season Can Hurt Some Baseball Free Agents

Arthur Rhodes Pitcher Seattle Baseball

Photo: Ted Kerwin

The free agent signing period began on Sunday morning, and one rule teams must keep in mind as they began negotiating with new players is baseball’s system of classifying free agents as Type A, Type B, and Unclassified.When a free agent that has been given a Type A moniker (based on rankings compiled by Elias Sports Bureau) leaves one team for another, his old team is awarded the new team’s top drift pick.

To be eligible for that compensation, the original team must offer the free agent arbitration. When a player ranked among the top 20 per cent of all players rejects arbitration, he is given Type A status.

But there’s an unintended consequence to this system. Teams think twice before coming to terms with a Type A free agent, well aware that they lose an opportunity to grab cheaper, younger talent by doing so.

Relief pitchers are most affected by this rule. Teams are already wary of signing relief pitchers to big contracts, as their production tends to vary wildly from year to year. Couple that reality with the lost draft pick and the demand for these players plummets.

That’s why, much to the dismay of teams hoping for a free draft pick, you’ll see some free agent relievers – including Jason Frasor (Jays), Arthur Rhodes (Reds), and Grant Balfour (Rays) according to ESPN’s Buster Olney – accept arbitration rather than test the lukewarm market.

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