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.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.