Does the free agent compensation system overrate relievers?

8 Comments

Sam Miller of the Orange County Register raised an interesting point on Twitter just now, which is that 12 of the 34 free agents who’ve been classified as Type A–and thus will require forfeiting a first-round draft pick to sign–are relief pitchers.

Here are the dozen Type A relievers: Grant Balfour, Scott Downs, Frank Francisco, Jason Frasor, Matt Guerrier, Arthur Rhodes, Mariano Rivera, Takashi Saito, Rafael Soriano, Matt Thornton, Billy Wagner, Dan Wheeler.

Obviously there are plenty of very good relievers on that list, but there are also some guys no one would classify as elite free agents. And last year was a similar story, as 10 of the 26 players classified as Type A free agents were relievers (including names like John Grabow, Kevin Gregg, and Darren Oliver). In other words, over the past two seasons the Elias Sports Bureau’s system for ranking free agents has determined that 37 percent of the Type A players are relievers.

There’s really no way to look at those numbers and not conclude the ranking system is significantly out of whack, so the only real question is why. My guess is that there’s too much emphasis placed on ERA (or other “rate” stats) and not enough emphasis placed on innings pitched (or other “counting” stats). And there’s no doubt a lot of value given to saves.

For years now there have been various complaints about the Elias rankings doing a poor job of evaluating players and classifying free agents, mostly because the statistics they choose to focus on are far from state of the art and their method of weighing those statistics is flawed. However, this goes beyond those criticisms and shows–pretty convincingly, I think–that the entire system is simply off base.

When the goal is to rank the best, most valuable players and 37 percent of the Type A guys are determined to be relief pitchers … well, as they say on the internet: You’re doing it wrong.

Dee Gordon placed on injured list due to quad strain

Quinn Harris/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Mariners announced on Tuesday that second baseman Dee Gordon has been placed on the 10-day injured list due to a strained left quad. Infielder Tim Lopes was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma and pitcher Parker Markel was designated for assignment.

Gordon, 31, apparently suffered the injury diving back into first base during Monday’s game against the Rangers. The speedster is batting .280/.306/.367 with 14 extra-base hits, 27 RBI, 26 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 284 plate appearances.

Lopes, 25, will provide infield depth for the Mariners while Gordon is on the mend. At Tacoma, Lopes hit .302/.362/.480 with 10 home runs, 60 RBI, 58 runs scored, and 24 stolen bases in 403 PA.

Gordon’s injury comes at a bad time for the Mariners with the July 31 trade deadline on the horizon. He is under contract for 2020 at $13.5 million and has a 2021 club option worth $14 million with a $1 million buyout. A contending team might have traded for Gordon. Now the Mariners will have to wait until the offseason to explore that possibility.