Billy Wagner Rumors

How Did Type A Free Agents Do This Winter?

You'd think it would be a good thing to be identified as a premium player at your position, but Type A status is more of a curse than a blessing for some free agents. Teams have to give up a top pick to sign Type A free agents who turn down arbitration, and that scares some clubs away. GMs covet high draft picks since they can become cheap, young contributors within a couple years, so there's a league-wide reluctance to hand over top picks for Type A free agents who aren't elite players.

That's not an issue for Mark Teixeira types – teams will want to sign Hall of Fame caliber talent no matter what – but the Elias system doesn't rank players the way front offices do, so the market for some players is limited by their Type A status. Ask Juan Cruz and Orlando Hudson about the effect the Elias Rankings can have on a player's contract.
This year, however, those who declined arbitration don't have reason to regret their decisions. All the Type A free agents below had multiple suitors and all but Billy Wagner signed multi-year deals. This doesn't mean teams are willing to hand over top picks. Instead it's likely an indication that agents are only letting Type As decline arbitration offers if the players are sure to attract lots of interest on the market. 

But players aren't necessarily handcuffed by the Elias rankings. Some, like Justin Duchscherer and Orlando Cabrera, have negotiated clauses into their contracts that forbid their teams from offering arbitration if they're designated Type A free agents.

Here's a complete look at the deals signed by the group of Type A free agents who turned down their teams' offers of arbitration this winter.

Rafael Soriano May Accept Arbitration

6:56pm: Braves GM Frank Wren told MLB.com's Mark Bowman he'd expect Soriano to request a trade if he accepts arbitration.  Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports expects this decision to go down to the buzzer.

12:40pm: MLB.com's Mark Bowman says Soriano's agent Peter Greenberg will make the rounds today, talking to as many teams as possible before making the arbitration decision.

11:29am: Heyman notes that Soriano has attracted interest from the Yankees, Orioles, and Astros.  The Yankees would give up their #32 pick, the Orioles #37, or the Astros #43.

9:54am: Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes that if he accepts arbitration, Soriano cannot be traded before June 1st without his permission.  I imagine he'd approve a deal in order to get a better role, though.  Can Soriano find a two-year deal on the open market, given his health history and the draft pick cost?

MONDAY, 8:56am: David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Mark Bowman of MLB.com are throwing out slightly lower estimates of $6.5-7.5MM for Soriano if he accepts arbitration.  Both seem to believe Soriano should or will turn down arbitration.  But keep it mind that it is certainly in the Braves' best interest for stories to pop up explaining why Soriano should test the open market.

SUNDAY, 9:09pm: SI.com's Jon Heyman tweets that Soriano is "now leaning toward accepting arbitration." That would make for a pretty pricey end-game trio in Atlanta, and suggests that maybe there isn't as much interest in his services as expected.

SATURDAY, 5:30pm: After it was reported earlier this week that Braves reliever Rafael Soriano would look for employment elsewhere, his agent tells Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com that his client is giving serious consideration to accepting arbitration.

This would leave Atlanta with a rather pricey bullpen as they recently inked both Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito to a combined guaranteed $10.2MM in 2010.  Earlier this week, a high-ranking executive told Buster Olney that Soriano could net roughly $8MM in arbitration.  Furthermore, this would likely mean that the soon-to-be 30-year-old would have to accept a role as a set-up man rather than close for Atlanta.

Soriano's agent Peter Greenberg told Crasnick that Soriano would take the decision "down to the wire."  One has to think that the Braves will be less than pleased if the Type A free agent chooses to accept arbitration at this stage.  Did Atlanta jump the gun by signing Wagner and Saito?  Let's hear your thoughts in the comments section.


Brian Bruney Braves Rumor

George A. King III of the New York Post talked to an official from a team interested in Yankees reliever Brian Bruney, and was told, "We asked about him but hear he is going to the Braves."  The Braves would seem an odd match for Bruney, who is arbitration-eligible and due a raise on last year's $1.25MM salary.  The Braves already signed Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito and might be saddled with Rafael Soriano if he accepts arbitration.  Honestly, I'm not buying this rumor.



Odds & Ends: McLeod, Yankees, Wagner, Lyon

Let's check out some Wednesday evening links….


Odds & Ends: Hudson, Wolf, Betancourt, Braves

Links for Wednesday…


Braves Sign Billy Wagner

11:36am: The Braves officially announced the Wagner signing, tweets MLB.com's Mark Bowman.  That implies he passed his physical.

1:28am: The Braves have agreed to sign Billy Wagner, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The deal is worth $7MM and includes a $6.5MM option for 2011 that vests if Wagner finishes 50 games.

The Red Sox offered the lefty arbitration tonight, so they stand to gain the Braves' first round pick in next year's draft (#20), plus a supplemental rounder. The move is pending a physical, which could be more than a formality in this case. The 38-year-old returned from Tommy John surgery last year to strike out 15 batters per nine innings in 17 appearances with the Mets and Red Sox.

The Elias numbers rank John Lackey, Matt Holliday, Marco Scutaro and Jose Valverde ahead of Wagner, so if the Braves sign one of those players, the Red Sox would get the Braves' 52nd overall selection.


Red Sox To Offer Arb To Bay, Wagner

8:58 PM CST: The Red Sox just sent a press release officially announcing the arbitration offers.

7:22 PM CST: Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe confirms (via Twitter) that the offers to Bay and Wagner have been made.

6:09 PM CST: Red Sox president Larry Lucchino told The Providence Journal's Dan Barbarisi that the club will be offering arbitration to Type A free agents Billy Wagner and Jason Bay.  Lucchino said the offers would be officially sent out by tonight's 11:59 PM deadline, if they hadn't been sent already.

Neither move is a surprise, given that Boston stands to recoup as many as four extra draft picks should both players sign with other teams.


MacPhail On The Orioles, Free Agents, Wagner

Orioles president Andy MacPhail tells ESPN.com's Buster Olney that he sees a "critical mass" of talented young players ready to contribute to Baltimore's next great team.

"The improvement in the standings, like Tampa Bay showed, can come overnight," MacPhail said.

The O's expect to supplement their young core with some free agents. The team has uncertainty at the corner infield positions, but MacPhail expects to be able to find answers on the market, since there are lots of options at first and third. Miguel Tejada and the Astros have interest in extending the infielder's stay in Houston, but in theory, Tejada could return to the O's.

MacPhail, who values shut-down relievers, expects the relief market to develop slowly and sounds confident that the O's will find a late-inning arm. Billy Wagner is one of the relievers the Orioles have some interest in. His Type A status won't scare the O's off, since they're prepared to surrender a draft pick for the right free agent.


Wagner Will Be Presented With Offers Next Week

Bean Stringfellow, agent for free agent reliever Billy Wagner, said that a few interested clubs will be presenting his client with offers "sometime next week," according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Eight clubs have shown interest in Wagner, and all eight have the intention of using him as their closer according to his agent.

Stringfellow also indicated that Wagner is open to going back to Boston, even though he wouldn't be closing. He has “no doubt” the club will offer the Type-A free agent arbitration, and feels "Wagner will have enough offers in hand prior to that date that an informed decision can be made by the pitcher in regards to a possible return to the Red Sox."


Olney On Halladay, Wagner, Bay

In his ESPN.com column today, Buster Olney notes that many teams are waiting to get involved in the free agent market, meaning there might not be many moves made in the next couple weeks. Here are a few other highlights from Olney's blog:

  • One executive tells Olney that the Blue Jays' chances of moving Roy Halladay are no better than 50/50. Another source suggests that the Jays could have had three top prospects for Halladay last summer, whereas now they could probably only land one star prospect and a second with some major-league potential.
  • Billy Wagner's Type A status could make him undesirable to clubs not wanting to give up any draft picks to sign him. However, Wagner could make himself more attractive by lowering his contract demands. If a team thought they were getting a potentially elite closer at a discount, they'd be more willing to part with a draft pick.
  • Olney hears from a pair of execs that the Red Sox will continue to take the Jason Bay negotiations slowly, and that the team would ultimately prefer to sign Matt Holliday.
  • The Padres likely won't want to pay Kevin Correia a raise through arbitration. The team will try to work out a "moderate-sized deal" with him, and if they can't do it, the right-hander could be non-tendered.
  • Olney reiterates what he wrote in yesterday's blog: it doesn't seem like Adrian Gonzalez is going anywhere.
  • Randy Wolf has received plenty of interest from teams looking at starting pitching.