[image title="hudson-med" size="full" id="14262" align="center" linkto="full" ]
Last season, we saw a number of players linger on the free agent market due to their status as a Type A free agent. While superstars and younger players were not drastically affected, older players and those who fill niche roles saw their value plummet far below what they may have been paid if there were no compensation system in place. Teams were loathe to give up draft picks to have a player like Juan Cruz or Orlando Hudson for a short term fix.
This season, none of the Type A free agents met with a similar fate. As MLBTR outlines, some players have taken matters into their own hands:
This year, however, those who declined arbitration don’t have reason to regret their decisions. All the Type A free agents below had multiple suitors and all but Billy Wagner signed multi-year deals. This doesn’t mean teams are willing to hand over top picks. Instead it’s likely an indication that agents are only letting Type As decline arbitration offers if the players are sure to attract lots of interest on the market.
But players aren’t necessarily handcuffed by the Elias rankings. Some, like Justin Duchscherer and Orlando Cabrera, have negotiated clauses into their contracts that forbid their teams from offering arbitration if they’re designated Type A free agents.
I think that we are very likely to see agents be significantly more cognizant of this process than they were in the past, and probably be more conservative when it comes to rejecting arbitration. Under the old economic regime of the mid-2000′s, a player like Bobby Abreu likely could have scored a 3 year deal following the 2008 season. However, a new system seems to have developed, whereby star players are the only ones getting deals that exceed 2 years, and aging veterans are hard pressed to extract even a 2 year deal from any club.
As such, I think it will become exceedingly common for older players to accept arbitration, for fear of replicating Hudson’s post-2008. Others will negotiate clauses such as the one Orlando Cabrera received, so as to bypass the entire process and ensure that they are able to maximize their value in free agency. Of course, once players show that they have adjusted to the new reality, clubs will stop offering said players arbitration, and they will enter free agency untethered by draft pick restraints. This will undermine the draft pick compensation system entirely, and encourage small market clubs to trade their stars earlier to get some sort of return on them. I am not sure what might happen at that point, but this system is an issue that is certain to come up in the upcoming CBA negotiations.
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