Rankings Cost Relievers Dollars

Just in case there was any question as to the merit of the perceived faults of the Elias Sports Bureau’s ranking system, a quick look through the remaining Type A and Type B free agents reveals one starter, four relievers and Felipe Lopez.

As the offseason winds down and pitchers and catchers get set to report to their respective camps as early as Valentine’s Day, time is running out for these free agents to sign with new organizations.  None of them face a more uphill battle to find a club than Grant Balfour.

As Buster Olney explains:

Grant Balfour has been an excellent reliever over the past three years, posting ERAs of 1.54, 2.98 and 2.28, respectively. Opponents had an on-base percentage of .215 against him with runners in scoring position in 2010, and he had a WHIP of 1.08 in 57 appearances. But his excellence has worked against him, because Balfour is classified as a Type A free agent — and therefore any team that signs him has to give up a top draft pick.

Now, there exists a possibility that Balfour’s agreement to refuse arbitration that would’ve guaranteed him a raise from the $2.05 million he made last season from the Tampa Bay Rays came with a caveat that the team would resign him if he couldn’t find employment elsewhere.  Barring that or a sign and trade scenario like we discussed yesterday, Balfour could very well go unsigned until after the June draft, at which time he’d be free to sign with any team unhinged to the compensation that would be required right now.

Two pitchers who would’ve faced a similar disinterest on the free agent market due to their Elias ranking were Frank Francisco and Jason Frasor.  Thankfully for the pocketbooks of both players, Francisco and Frasor accepted their arbitration offers and now head into the arbitration process armed with a flawed ranking system that claims they’re among the best players in baseball, rather than parading around the no man’s land that is free agency in mid January.

Without the ranking system in place, there’s no doubt in my mind that Balfour, Francisco and Frasor would have little trouble securing a multi-year deal on the free agent market.  Shackled to compensation though, the trio have all the employing appeal of million dollar janitors.

Francisco and Frasor were able to see this ahead of time, and while they won’t be rewarded with the multi-year deal that they probably deserve, they don’t have to sit and wait by their phones, facing the prospect of missing out on half a year’s salary like Balfour.

Sometimes salary arbitration in your hand really is better than a multi-year deal in the free agency bushes.