Elias’ free agent compensation rankings revealed early

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After reverse engineering the system to determine unofficial free agent rankings throughout the season MLB Trade Rumors has gotten its hands on the official list from the Elias Sports Bureau.

There are no big surprises based on the unofficial, in-season protections done by MLBTR, as the reverse-engineered projections were “off” on only two players: Derrek Lee and Mark Ellis.

Several non-star players qualify as Type A free agents, which means teams that sign them must forfeit their first-round pick as long as the selection isn’t in the top 15. If it is a top-15 pick, then the team would lose their second rounder instead.

Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Victor Martinez, and Adam Dunn are some of the obvious Type A free agents. Among the lesser Type A qualifiers: Matt Guerrier, Jason Frasor, Grant Balfour, Ramon Hernandez, Jason Kubel, Dan Wheeler, Arthur Rhodes, Bengie Molina, A.J. Pierzynski.

Similarly there are some relatively big names who qualify as merely Type B free agents, which means teams are free to sign them without losing their first-round pick. Among the bigger name Type B qualifiers: Hiroki Kuroda, Aubrey Huff, Brian Fuentes, Johnny Damon, Orlando Hudson, Javier Vazquez, Carlos Pena, Lance Berkman, Hideki Matsui.

Also worth noting is that in order to receive compensation of any kind, regardless of the player’s classification, a team must offer their departing free agent salary arbitration. Depending on the circumstances some teams decline to do so, forfeiting compensation because they don’t want to risk the player accepting arbitration and forcing them into a one-year commitment.

MLB Trade Rumors has done a great job tracking the free agent rankings all season, so check out their full list of Type A and Type B qualifiers.

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

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Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.