One thing the Pittsburgh Pirates rarely see is draft pick compensation for their departing free agents. For the most part, the Pirates never really have free agents that depart after the season. They usually trade those players around the deadline for a guaranteed return, rather than holding on to the players in hopes of future draft picks, which is never a guarantee. I’ve talked about the draft pick compensation system in the past, but here is a quick refresher:
-There are two types of ranked free agents, Type A and Type B.
-Type A free agents fetch two picks for their former team. The first pick is awarded by Major League Baseball, in the sandwich round between the first and second rounds. The second pick comes from the team that signed the player. That pick is either a first round pick (for teams picking after the first 15 picks in the draft) or a second round pick (for teams picking in the top 15).
-Type B free agents only fetch one pick for their former team. That pick is awarded by Major League Baseball, in the sandwich round between the first and second rounds.
-To get compensation, the former team must offer the player arbitration. The player must then decline, and go on to sign a major league contract with another team prior to the following year’s draft.
-Compensation is not guaranteed, as a player can just accept arbitration, can go un-signed the following year, or could be signed to a minor league deal.
With that said, let’s take a look at the upcoming free agents for the Pirates, to get an idea of who has a chance at receiving draft pick compensation for the 2012 draft.
Pending Free Agents
The following players will be free agents after the 2011 season.
Joe Beimel - Beimel will be a free agent after the season, although he’s nowhere near Type B status, and that won’t change in the final two months.
Derrek Lee - Lee falls just short of Type B status, although a strong run in the final two months could sneak him on to the list. However, he’d be due a raise in arbitration over his total compensation, which is likely to be $9.25 M this year. It’s unlikely that he declines arbitration and turns that money down, as he won’t find the same on a one year deal as a free agent.
Ryan Ludwick - Ludwick is fully entrenched as a Type B free agent, with no danger of moving off the list, and no chance of becoming a Type A. Like Lee, he’s not guaranteed a compensation pick due to his salary. He’s making $6.775 M this year, and would be unlikely to receive more than that on the open market, making it unlikely that he declines arbitration if offered.
Players With Option Years
The following players have club options beyond the 2011 season, but can become free agents if the Pirates decline their option. The Pirates can still offer them arbitration after declining the option.
Ronny Cedeno - The Pirates have an option on Cedeno, and considering the lack of shortstop depth in the system, plus his defensive play this year, they’d be better off picking up the option. He doesn’t qualify as a Type B free agent, so there’s no benefit to letting him walk.
Ryan Doumit - Doumit is high up on the Type B list, and has an option for the 2012 season. The Pirates would have to pick up his 2012 and 2013 options, for a combined cost of $15.5 M. That’s too much for Doumit, considering his injury history. They could pay his $500 K buyout, then offer him arbitration. If he accepts, he would get a raise over his $5.2 M salary in 2011. If he declines, the Pirates would get a compensation pick.
Paul Maholm - Maholm is in a similar situation to Cedeno. He’s got an option for the 2012 season, and he doesn’t qualify as a Type B free agent. Based on how he’s pitched this year, the Pirates would be better off picking up his option. If they didn’t want to keep him around, they could still get value from him by offering him in a trade over the off-season.
Chris Snyder - Just like Ryan Doumit, Snyder is a Type B free agent, with an option for the 2012 season. Snyder’s option is for $6.75 M, with a $750 K buyout. If he were to accept arbitration, it’s likely that the Pirates would be paying him more than the option price. They’d have to pay the $750 K buyout, and he would get a raise over his $5.75 M 2011 salary. If he declined, the Pirates would get a compensation pick.
Overall the Pirates aren’t guaranteed any picks. The only Type B free agents are Lee, Ludwick, Doumit, and Snyder. All four players would receive compensation that would be much higher than their value to the team. The Pirates also have to weigh risks. They can’t offer both Doumit and Snyder arbitration. If both players accepted, the Pirates would end up paying over $12 M for two injury prone catchers (they’re getting $3 M from Arizona for Snyder, which lessens the financial impact of having both on the roster this year).
The only way I see the Pirates landing compensation for any of these players would be to work out handshake agreements, where the players agree to decline arbitration if it is offered to them. That wouldn’t hurt the players, as they are Type B free agents. Often, Type A free agents can be hurt by their status, as teams are not only signing those players, but giving up a draft pick to do so. Type B free agents don’t have to worry about their compensation affecting their free agent stock. If the Pirates could work out some sort of deal, they might end up with an extra draft pick or two. Otherwise, the 2012 draft looks like it will be another draft where the Pirates don’t see any free agent compensation picks.