What The Elias Rankings Mean For Trade Candidates

Many of this year's trade candidates share a distinguishing characteristic: they are about to become free agents. After the season, their teams will decide whether to offer arbitration and have a chance at top picks in next year's draft. A player's ranking can contribute to or detract from his trade value, so let's take a look at some of this year's trade candidates and see where they place under our reverse-engineered Elias rankings

We'll start with some trade candidates who project as Type A free agents. If these players decline arbitration offers to sign elsewhere, their former teams will receive two top picks in the 2011 draft. These players are sometimes more inclined to accept arbitration, since their Type A status can intimidate would-be suitors who don't want to surrender a pick (just ask Juan Cruz and Orlando Hudson).

It's important to note that teams don't necessarily give first rounders up to sign the players below. The first 15 picks are protected and sometimes teams sign more than one Type A player. Say the Red Sox sign Adam Dunn (75.8 ranking) and Scott Downs (74.6 ranking) and both were offered arb. The Nationals would get Boston's top pick and the Blue Jays would get their second-best pick because Dunn ranks higher than Downs. In that instance, Downs only costs the Red Sox a second rounder.

Once a team signs one Type A free agent, the cost of signing a second and a third drops, since the club is giving up lesser picks. Rafael Soriano (88.9), Vladimir Guerrero (88.6), Carl Crawford (85.5), Javier Vazquez (79.0) and Adrian Beltre (78.9) could all get arbitration offers this winter, so Type As, especially lower-ranked players, don't always cost a first rounder. With that in mind, here are some trade candidates who currently have Type A status:

  • Cliff Lee (91.8) – He is getting an arbitration offer and turning it down. Lee's Type A status boosts his trade value.
  • Jayson Werth (86.0) – Same goes for Werth.
  • David DeJesus (78.3)- Matt Klaassen of FanGraphs argued yesterday that the Royals shouldn't offer arbitration, since DeJesus would accept. It's entirely possible that the Royals can get more value for DeJesus in a trade, but I don't think DeJesus would necessarily accept arbitration. He will easily be a top-five outfielder if his team lets him hit free agency instead of picking up his $6MM option. And if he accepts? The team has an above-average outfielder on an affordable one-year deal.
  • Adam Dunn (75.8) – He will get an arbitration offer and will probably turn it down. Dunn's Type A status boosts his trade value.
  • Scott Downs (74.6) – Earlier this week, I suggested the Blue Jays could offer Downs arbitration and either collect the picks or pay him $5MM or so in 2011. There's a good chance that Downs accepts an offer of arbitration, but the chance at two top picks probably makes that a risk worth taking. 
  • Miguel Tejada (74.4) – It's hard to imagine teams forfeiting picks to sign Tejada. It seems unlikely that a team would offer arbitration. Tejada's Type A status doesn't affect his trade value (and he is only a couple points away from becoming a Type B).
  • Ted Lilly (74.3) – Lilly will be a top free agent starter after the season, so the Cubs will likely offer arbitration. Lilly's Type A status boosts his trade value.

And here are some players who currently project as Type B free agents. These players will bring their former teams a supplementary round pick if they decline arbitration to sign elsewhere. But teams don't have to give up their picks to sign Type Bs, which makes these players appealing as free agents.

  • John BuckJ. P. Arencibia is Toronto's catcher of the future, but it's easy to imagine the Blue Jays (or another team) offering Buck arbitration after the season. It worked last year, when the Jays got a supplemental rounder for losing Rod Barajas. Buck wouldn't make much through arbitration, so his Type B status boosts his trade value.
  • Jose Guillen – It's extremely hard to imagine the Royals offering arbitration. His Type B status does not affect his trade value.
  • Mike Lowell – Same goes for Lowell.
  • Kevin Millwood – And for Millwood.
  • Jason Frasor – Frasor makes only $2.65MM this year, so he wouldn't be making an overwhelming amount even if he accepted arbitration. Obtaining a pick for Frasor would be a plus, so his Type B status helps his trade value.
  • Derrek Lee – Given Lee's struggles and salary, it's hard to imagine his team offering arbitration.
  • Cristian Guzman – Guzman makes $8MM this year and though players aren't guaranteed raises via this kind of arbitration, Guzman isn't even worth his current salary on the open market. An arbitration offer seems unlikely, so his status doesn't affect his trade value.
  • Octavio Dotel –  Like Frasor, Dotel could see an offer of arbitration, depending on how he finishes the season, so his Type B status helps his trade value. The Pirates have a $4MM option for Dotel that becomes mutual if he is traded.
  • Aaron Heilman – It seems unlikely that the D'Backs would feel comfortable offering Heilman arbitration, given his inconsistent performance in 2010, so his status doesn't help his trade value.

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