Flawed Elias Rankings set to play key role this winter

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Every year, the terribly broken Elias Rankings play a much larger role than most realize in which free agents signs where and when. Fungible relievers and part-time infielders can see their options dwindle because they’re foolishly classified as Type A free agents. Meanwhile, starting pitchers in line for $30 million-$40 million contract can come compensation free because the statistics the rankings use so badly fail to measure value.
Now that the long secret rankings have been reverse engineered by Eddie Bajek and the results get updated throughout the year on MLB Trade Rumors, I’m hopeful the league will finally get around to reevaluating them. In the meantime, I have some thoughts on the projected rankings this year.
– First, a quick primer. A team that signs a Type A free agent, has to give up its first pick, unless that pick is in the top 15 in the draft. In that case, the team surrenders a second-round pick. Teams can lose multiple picks. The Yankees lost first-, second- and third-round picks last year for signing Mark Teixieira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Type B free agents require no compensation to sign, but the team that loses them is awarded a newly created pick between the first and second rounds. In both cases, these picks only change hands or are rewarded if the player in question is offered arbitration by his old team.
– The most disturbing rankings this year come in the infield. Orlando Hudson, Miguel Tejada, Marco Scutaro, Placido Polanco and Orlando Cabrera are the Type A free agents. Meanwhile, the infielders likely to get the largest deals — Chone Figgins and Adrian Beltre — are Type Bs. That makes them even more attractive than they were already. Felipe Lopez, Mark DeRosa, Freddy Sanchez and Troy Glaus are also relevant Type Bs.
Cabrera would be in line to be ripped off by the rankings system for a second straight year, but as part of his deal with the A’s last year, he and his agent smartly included a clause that prevented his team from offering him arbitration this winter. Since the compensation goes away once a player isn’t offered arbitration, he can be had without sacrificing a draft pick.
– Because the system treats the positions as equals, the second- and third-tier relievers are always the players most ripped off by the rankings. The league’s 20th best reliever isn’t worth anywhere near as much as the 20th best starter, yet both are going to be Type-A free agents, meaning a team would have to give up a pick to sign them.
The Type-A free agent relievers this year are Jose Valverde, Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, Billy Wagner, Darren Oliver, LaTroy Hawkins, Rafael Betancourt, Kevin Gregg, John Grabow and Octavio Dotel.
Several of the pitchers won’t be offered arbitration, taking them off the list of pitchers who would require compensation. But a couple probably will be offered arbitration and have to accept it, since no one is going to want to both pay them and sacrifice a draft pick. That’s what Oliver and the Reds’ David Weathers did last year.
– So, that’s 10 free agent relievers who claimed Type A status. On the other hand, just two starters did: John Lackey and Randy Wolf. Andy Pettitte, Rich Harden, Erik Bedard, Vicente Padilla, Joel Pineiro, Braden Looper, Jon Garland, Doug David, Randy Johnson, Jason Marquis, Justin Duchscherer and Carl Pavano are all Type Bs.
Then you have Jarrod Washburn, Tim Hudson and Brett Myers, whose teams won’t even be awarded a supplemental pick if they leave.
Brandon Webb is also set to be a Type B if his option is declined, which is one more great reason for the Diamondbacks to exercise it. The Yankees and Red Sox will definitely be looking at high upside pitchers like Webb, Harden, Bedard, Hudson and Ben Sheets.
– In the first base-outfield sections of the rankings, Matt Holliday, Jason Bay and Manny Ramirez were all clear Type As. Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero and Jermaine Dye were also Type As, but Guerrero and Dye, at least, probably won’t be offered arbitration.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.