Earlier this week, the Elias Sports Bureau released the official rankings that determine a player’s free agent rating, classifying him as a Type A or Type B free agent. Depending on the classification, different levels of compensation are awarded if the player refuses an arbitration offer and signs with another team.
Now, let’s just be honest – the Elias Ratings are horrible. The fact that MLB still uses them is laughable. Almost everyone reading this site could create a better rating system for evaluating major league players in about five minutes. But, this is what MLB chooses to use, for whatever reason.
Every year, however, the horribleness of the system screws over a decent enough player by categorizing them as a Type A free agent, thus requiring any team that wants to sign them to forfeit a high value draft choice. For these players, interest in offering them a contract nosedives as soon as they’re offered arbitration by their original club, and essentially limits their options to taking a one year deal to return to where they ended the previous season or try to take such a bargain contract that another team will view it as worth surrendering the pick for.
This year, the glaring example of a guy who got hosed by the Elias Rankings is Damaso Marte.
Despite his struggles in the Bronx, Marte’s a pretty lefty setup guy, able to get hitters from both sides of the plate out and missing a lot of bats. The Yankees, with their endless supply of cash, will almost certainly offer Marte arbitration. If he takes it, they get a solid enough setup guy without a long term commitment. And if he doesn’t, they’d get a pick either in the 16-30 range (if he signs with a winner) or the 40-55 range (if he signs with a rebuilding club) for next year’s draft.
There are quite a few teams that Marte could help as a late inning setup man, but how many are going to be willing to surrender a top 50 pick in order to give him a multi-year deal? I’d venture to go with none.
Had Marte been classified as a Type B free agent, he’d probably have several two or three year offers to consider, perhaps from cities he might enjoy pitching in other than New York. However, because Elias decided that he’s good enough to be a Type A, and MLB teams realize that the system is stupid, Marte’s probably looking at a one year deal to remain with the Yankees.
Perhaps next year he’ll pitch poorly enough to be a Type B, which will actually grant him real free agency for a change. Hey, MLB, your free agent system is completely broken, and in the case of Damaso Marte, has taken true free agency away from him. Why don’t you do something about it?
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.