Around the League: The Loneliness of the Long Unsigned Pitchers

This was supposed to be the week things shook out and players like Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez found new homes.

Hasn't happened as of midnight Saturday.

What's going on?  Certainly they were held up while the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes was underway.  However, so were Matt Garza and Bronson Arroyo.  Those two did find new homes.  One obvious explanation is the qualifying offers they received.  With two years of data, we can now see three good pitchers -- Kyle Lohse, Santana, and Jimenez -- who went up to spring training without a contract.  The Union can't be happy about this.

What seems to have happened here is everyone underestimated just how valuable the new rules made draft picks.  The assumption was that teams willingness to surrender draft picks for talents wouldn't change.  The problem is: under the new rules, they're surrendering draft pick AND bonus money.  What's particularly ironic here is that the teams who can least afford to lose a draft pick to sign such players are the mid-market teams like the Orioles, the Pirates, and the Rays -- teams the new agreement was nominally supposed to help.

With the new CBA now impacting both the upper echelon of players and the mid-Market teams who thought they would benefit from the new rules, there's at least a chance that both sides will come together to make wholesale changes at the next negotiation session.

Around the league,


  • Kyle Farnsworth has found a new team.  The former Cub signed a minor league deal with the Mets worth $1 million if he makes the club with another $1.5 million in bonuses.  Farnsworth had a terrible year last year for the Rays before being released and rebounding modestly with the Pirates at the end of the season.
  • The Diamondbacks extended GM Kevin Towers and Manager Kirk Gibson.  This is very good news if you're a scrappy baseball player looking for work.
  • Armando Galarraga, best known as the guy who missed a perfect game in Detroit by one terrible call, signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers.  He was in both the Reds and the Rockies organizations last year, though he didn't pitch in the majors.


  • The Braves extended Freddie Freeman (8 years, $125 million) and Jason Heyward (2 years, $13.3 million).  It's yet the latest sign that the new TV money is largely keeping the games best players away from free agency.  It sure is nice to have a top 5 rated farm system right about now.


  • Former All Star Bryan LaHair has signed a minor league deal with the Indians.  LaHair is coming off a .230/.306/.438 season with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in NPB.


  • Excellent article by Scott Lindbloom of Beyond the Box Score looking at the relationship between FIP and ERA and tracking the seasons with the biggest differential.  He points out that the most dominant seasons in recent history have featured both low ERAs and low FIPs.
  • In a bid to steal a march on the Cubs for the #1 overall draft pick, the Marlins signed Carlos Marmol to a major league contract.  (That is not a typo.)
  • The Mariners added a closer, signing Fernando Rodney to a 2-year $14 million deal.  Rodney struggled with the Rays last season, giving up 4.9 BB/9 to go with a solid 11.1 K/9.


  • Bronson Arroyo reached a 2-year deal with the Diamondbacks, including a club option for a third year.  The Diamondbacks, who were apparently in on Masahiro Tanaka, found a reasonable replacement after losing him to the Yankees.  Arroyo has pitched over 200 innings 8 of the last 9 years.
  • Francisco K-Rod Rodriguez will return to Milwaukee on a one-year, $1.5 million contract.  Rodriguez was traded from the Brewers to the Orioles halfway through last season.  This is one of the few examples you can point to of trading a guy away and re-signing him over the off-season.
  • Coco Crisp re-upped with the A's, agreeing to a two-year, $22.75 million contract.  Crisp had an excellent year with Oakland last season, putting up 22 home runs and a .335 OBP.
  • Alex Rodriguez pulled his lawsuits against Bud Selig, MLB, and the MLBPA and will accept his suspension.

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  • Guess MLB must have been right about ARoid after all.As for Mssrs Jiminez and Santana, maybe there inconsistency over there careers is just as scary as the QOs.

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    MLB would be so much better off if classless distractions like ARod would just quietly fade away.

  • In reply to William Ray:

    Don't get me started!

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    I think it's pretty much a guarantee the QO system is going to be overhauled or abolished, probably overhauled. A quick fix may be to simply grant the losing team a supplemental pick, but not charge the signing team. That preserves the intent, which is to provide some sort of compensation to teams that lose FA, but doesn't have the punitive item that tamps down salaries.

    The owners, though, probably want something that does limit salaries; they probably have to admit though that the Scarlet "Q" really nails a player that has it.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    "A quick fix may be to simply grant the losing team a supplemental pick, but not charge the signing team."

    Problem with that is it rewards teams for letting players go and then signing a free agent. They end up with an extra pick, without giving anything up.

  • A Theo Interview

  • Dave Cameron mentioned on a chat on fangraphs the other day, about how teams like the Cubs, with protected first round picks, should be taking advantage of the market inefficiency on some of these free agents.
    A guy like Santana would be a nice asset to have, perhaps a 3 year deal at this point for 40 million. Look what they got for 3 months of Garza, certainly trading Santana or even a Jiminez in July could bring them a lot more than the value of the 53rd pick in the upcoming draft.

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    Yes, I think this logic is outdated. First of all, the Garza return is a little deceptive. Yes, we got a Top 100 guy for him, but CJ Edwards reached the Top 100 in no small part due to his seamlessly stepping into high A competition *after* he got here. On top of that, it was a nearly perfect situation where ownership was pressuring Jon Daniels to make a move, and Theo used that to his advantage. A lot went right there.

    The 53rd pick is Johnson/Zastryzny territory. It's a very risky strategy to try to get a player you can move for a prospect that good, especially a pitcher. All that has to happen is the pitcher is ineffective (EJax) or injured (Fujikawa, Garza in 2012) and you get nothing.

    But, the assumption these guys are running with is that second round picks are inherently unlikely to pan out. However, there are two points against this. First, Theo, Jed, and Jason McLeod have a long track record of getting impact players in the second round. Those three are skewing the return in the Cubs favor. Second, increasingly good players who may have slipped into the late second/third/fourth round with high bonus demands that only the Yankees or Red Sox will be willing to meet will now be available in the second round. That fundamentally changes the equation.

  • This strategy is very Flawed and represent significant risk, which you aren't taking into consideration. Mike touches on some of the points, but this concept has been discussed ad nausea with Santana & Jimenez in various threads here....

  • Mike, good read & I agree with your analysis on the unsigned pitchers and likelihood of changes to come. No doubt the union is upset, teams have the money to spend, and will spend willingly when draft pick aren't compensated. Some teams will spend if the talent signed is high enough to offset the loss of picks, but when the talent is on the fringe, it really makes it difficult. I guess the owners can always say, "you had a 14.1 million dollar offer on the table and YOU made the choice." I don't buy that argument 100%, but its still there.

  • Part of Selig's legacy

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    as are steroids. Might I ask what team Ryan Fraud plays for, Commisioner Selig?

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    At some point, if it doesn't get fixed, more players will start taking the qualifying offer. It's not just the pitchers, as Morales and Cruz are still unsigned as well. At the time, I thought both of those guys should've taken the QO, Morales for sure. It looks like Cruz will end up with Seattle, but I don't know who will sign Morales.

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    We seem to be running out of steam a bit. This offseason is almost over, but I propose an idea for next year: a fiction writing contest. 1500 words, must contain the phrase, " I blame it on Wrigley."

  • Perhaps the fix would look something like the signing team gives up pick(s) in round 3 if they are a bottom ten "protected" team and rounds 3 and 5 if they aren't a protected team. The team making the qualified offer would also receive a compensatory pick at the end of round 2.

    This is an off the cuff idea. I leave it to you guys to pick it apart...

  • Good write up Mike!

    I think the agents have over promising is also part of the problem. Jimenez for example had a season that is worth about $15 mil per year. But the previous three he wasn't worth $5 mil, arguably combined! So what do you pay for that guy? Then add in a premium pick, plus the money as you mention and now what should you pay. To me Jimenez should have taken the money for one year and build his resume back up. As it stands he probably isn't worth more than 3/$30 based on all the factors, but I guarantee his agent promised more like 4-5 at 15+ per.

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    I like the Arroyo signing. That staff needed a stable pony, and he's a good fit for that. They over-payed, but it's only a two year deal. I'd say that takes the D'backs out of the market for Samardzija, at least for now.

    There's some thought out there that the whole QO and draft pick compensation thing may get revisited before the current CBA is up. What needs to happen, in my opinion, is some sort of merger between the old system and the new system.

    Teams signing FA's should not be punished for doing so. In other words, no one should lose a draft pick for signing a FA ever, but teams losing FA's should still receive compensation picks and a pro-rated increase in pool money. I liked the type-A, type -B and type-C system, though I think it needed to be tweaked.

  • I I see the team avoided arbitration with Shark. Good news.

  • Mike: Maybe I'm over thinking it, but is the title of the article a play on the Iron Maiden song "The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner?

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    In reply to Bill:

    You were not over-thinking, but a step further back. It's a play on the Alan Silltoe short story "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner." In responding to your question, I find that Iron Maiden adapted the story into a song.. (Felzzy will make music references, mine will usually be Literature based.)

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Thanks Mike!
    I used to run long distance/cross-country back in the early to mid 80's in high school. When that song came out I was done with running but I really enjoyed the song. I never knew about the short story. Now I will definitely have to check it out. Thanks again.

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