At 12:01 eastern time today, the free agent signing period officially begins. I detailed some of the things to expect here but one of the things I neglected to mention was the changes in the free agent arbitration process, and how qualifying offers will likely affect this years market. For those of you unfamiliar with the QO process, Jeff Sullivan at fan graphs had an excellent description of the changes earlier in the week. It's worth a read.
For those of you who don't click links, I'll try and break it down in 10 easy steps
- In past seasons, the opening of the market meant that teams simply were able to start dialogue with players, and vice versa, but it was rare that major deals happened quickly. There were various reasons for this, but the biggest reason was simply that most GM's were hesitant to make a splash without knowing if signing someone would mean forfeiting a draft pick, and players and teams had a much longer period to accept/offer arbitration. To put this into perspective, in 2009 there were 29 free agents tied to draft pick compensation from the 2008 offseason. Almost double that number were in play at this point in free agency. there were 24 in 2010, and a whopping 36 in 2011. This year, just 9 players were made qualifying offers.
- For this reason, the winter meetings always seemed to be the starting point for major deals, unless, you know, you were a GM who just couldn't pass up a sweetheart kind of deal regardless of the unknown draft pick ramifications.
- That all changes this season. Instead of a team offering arbitration, and a player not knowing if he's going to get offered, or how much, as of 5PM eastern time today, all players who were eligible for offers received them, and they were all for 13.3mm. Set amount. Set deal.
- For the Phillies, that means they know that, say in the case of signing an OF, Josh Hamilton, BJ Upton, Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, by receiving QO's from their teams, all require forfeiting the 15th overall pick in the draft. (yay seven extra wins!) It also means that Angel Pagan, Tori Hunter, Shane Victorino, and Melky Cabrera cost nothing but money.
- For these players, they also know right now what they can get on a one year deal from their former team. No worrying about dollars, no wondering if the offer is gonna come. It also means that if they don't sign somewhere in the next 7 days, they lose that 1 year offer if they wait out the market. So if a guy like say, BJ Upton is asking for 15 per over 5 years, or Nick Swisher suddenly realizes that no one is willing to give him the 7 year deal he wants because of the glut of OF options out there, don't be surprised to see one of those guys suddenly take the 1 year deal and wait out the glut.
- In turn, that also means that these players can use that to their advantage, forcing a team desperate for a guy like that's hand in fear of them taking the offer.
- there are a TON of cost effective players out there who used to be type B free agents who won't cost anything that will be in higher demand. (see Adams, Mike)
- It also likely affects the trade market. the trades that took longer to materialize because people waited to see who was going to be available, or whether someone was gonna take an offer eating up money, can happen quicker.
- For the first time in the history of the game, the playing field is level and even on day one. Theres no real guessing, no worrying about allocating money, no issues with picks, nothing. Just good old fashioned show me the money.
- Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but that's a recipe for decisive deals and dropped shoes in a rapid kind of way.
This is pure speculation, but I'd suspect that by the time you're reading this, Ruben Amaro knows EXACTLY what every player he's interested is looking for. And if I know Ruben, he's gonna pounce on at least one OF option quick. They've got their list, their targets, and their budgets in hand.
We'll have our predictions for you guys monday, but by then, who knows, it might be too late and BJ UPTON may already be a Philly. So there you go, thats my CF prediction.
In the meantime, feel free to chime in here all weekend.
Happy Hot stove everyone!