MLB Trade Rumors updated their Elias Rankings projections today, giving an estimate as to which players will qualify for draft pick compensation in the off-season. The rankings aren’t official, although they’ve been very close in the past. They also come with the obvious disclaimer that a lot can change in the final three months of the season.
A big surprise on the list was the ranking of the two Pirates’ catchers, Chris Snyder and Ryan Doumit, who are both on the disabled list. Snyder ended up as the last Type A free agent, edging out John Buck, while Ryan Doumit was easily a Type B free agent. Going with the disclaimers above, nothing is official, especially since there’s half a season, both catchers are on the DL, and the Elias Rankings factor in playing time. However, it seems like a safe bet that each catcher would end up a Type B free agent, making them each eligible for a compensation pick at the end of the first round of the 2012 draft.
Both catchers have options for 2012, although neither option is a guarantee to be exercised. Doumit has an option for $7.25 M, with a 2013 option for $8.25 M. Both options have to be exercised together, which means there’s basically a guarantee that Doumit’s option won’t be picked up. Snyder’s is a little more manageable, at $6.75 M, and could be a possibility, depending on how the catching situation looks the rest of the year.
Compensation is no guarantee for the Pirates. In fact, it’s very difficult in these cases. In order to qualify for compensation, the Pirates would have to decline the options for Doumit and Snyder, then offer arbitration. If arbitration was accepted, it would almost guarantee each player a raise over their 2011 salaries, which is $5.75 M for Snyder and $5.2 M for Doumit.
The Pirates could take a risk on one player and offer arbitration, with the risk being a high priced, injury prone catcher on the roster, should that player accept arbitration. They almost certainly can’t offer arbitration to both players, as they can’t risk $10 M+ on two catchers (it’s easier in 2011, because they’re getting $3 M from Arizona).
The safe bet would be to offer arbitration to Snyder. Doumit is far more injury prone than Snyder, giving Snyder more value, should he accept arbitration. If he does accept arbitration, it wouldn’t amount to much more than his $6.75 M option (it would have to cost $6 M to equal the price, since the Pirates would be paying $750 K for his buyout on top of the arbitration price). It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if Snyder accepted arbitration. Eric Fryer and Michael McKenry profile more as backups, while top prospect Tony Sanchez is struggling in Altoona with a lack of power. Having Snyder around for one more year definitely wouldn’t hurt the Pirates, especially with Jason Jaramillo, Fryer, and McKenry in the system to back him up.
As for Doumit, if the Pirates could work out a deal with him where he would decline arbitration (something that has been common the last few years), they could buy themselves an extra draft pick at the end of the first round in 2012. They don’t have much leverage, since they’re most likely going to be declining his option and paying his buyout. Doumit would have to decline arbitration out of the goodness of his own heart, rather than accepting the offer and getting more than he would on the open market. That makes it unlikely that he gets tendered an offer.
The ideal scenario would be two compensation picks, although that would require arbitration offers to both players, with both players declining arbitration. It seems more likely that the Pirates will end up with no picks and one of the two catchers for the 2012 season. As for the other Pirates who ranked in the Elias projections (no pending free agents listed):
Joel Hanrahan – Type A
Andrew McCutchen – Type A
Evan Meek – Type A
Jose Tabata – Type B
Jose Veras – Type B
Neil Walker – Type B