With the official end of the 2011 MLB regular season fast approaching, the Mets once again find themselves playing out the string in a season that has already been unofficially over for quite awhile. Like many fans, over the past few weeks my attention has begun to shift away from the action on the field and toward the offseason. Specifically, toward free agency, arbitration, and the Rule 5 draft. As the Mets close the book on a third consecutive losing season, those are the topics I find most interesting. So I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at them, and how they’ll impact the Mets, to help understand the starting point from which the Mets’ 2012 roster will be built.
In the first half of October, the first batch of Minor Leaguers will file for free agency. It will include players like Pat Misch and Mike O’Connor, guys who were on the 40-man roster at some point this year, but have since been removed, but who also either have 3+ years of Major League service, or have been subjected to multiple career outright assignments.
Then, on the 5th day following the conclusion of the World Series, Major League free agents, as well as the rest of the Minor League free agents, will hit the open market. As you’re no doubt aware, the only way to keep control of a Major League free agent is by agreeing to a new contract with him. On the other hand, any of the Mets’ impending minor league free agents can be retained simply by placing them on the 40-man roster.
List of 2011 Mets’ free agents
AAA (19): Bubba Bell, Boof Bonser, Jason Botts, Gustavo Chacin, Raul Chavez, Jack Egbert, Jesus Feliciano, Luis Figueroa, Casey Fossum, Justin Hampson, Luis Hernandez, Chin-lung Hu, John Lujan, Salomon Manriquez, Pat Misch, Mike O’Connor, Fernando Perez, Brian Sweeney, Taylor Tankersley
Adv A (2): Nick Carr, Jose Coronado
A (1): Gabriel Zavala
One caveat regarding the Mets’ Minor League free agents. It represents a best guess, and one with which I’ve tried to err on the side of caution. The full list will be circulated by MLB in early November. Much of the important information needed to determine who is eligible and who is not is not public, particularly when it comes to international players and players not originally signed by the Mets. So while I believe the list to be fairly accurate, it’s more likely to include a player who is not eligible than to exclude a player who is eligible.
Arbitration is a bit of a two-headed monster, so it’s best to take it in pieces. First, the Mets have the option of offering arbitration to any departing Major League free agent. If the Mets decline to offer a player arbitration, his free agency progresses as it normally would. If a departing free agent is offered arbitration and that player accepts, the Mets are required to tender him a contract. If a salary cannot be agreed upon, it will be settled by an arbitration board in a February hearing. However, if a player is offered arbitration and he declines, the Mets may be entitled to compensation if the player ultimately signs elsewhere. Though the compensation formula is proprietary, it has been reverse-engineered to a high degree of accuracy by Eddie Bajek and provided exclusively to MLB Trade Rumors. Based on their most current projections, the only Met free agent who would return draft pick compensation is Reyes, who ranks as a Type A free agent (though he’s right on the border of Type B).
The other role arbitration plays is with players who are not eligible for free agency. These players are under team control, but are in line for (sometimes significant) pay increases. In early December, the Mets will have the option of tendering each of these arbitration eligible players a contract (which grants the player access to the arbitration process), or non-tendering him (which makes him a free agent). Players eligible for arbitration can be grouped by service time into four categories. The first group is arbitration eligible for the last time prior to hitting free agency. The second group is eligible for the next to last time. And so on. The assumption within these groupings is that the player will remain in the Major Leagues (or on a Major League disabled list) from now until he reaches free agency.
List of 2011 Mets’ arbitration eligibles
The Rule 5 Draft
The Rule 5 draft exists to limit teams’ ability to hoard minor league talent. Depending on their age when they sign, a player is protected from this draft either 3 or 4 times. After that, he must be placed on the 40-man roster or be left exposed. When a team selects a player in the Rule 5 draft, that player must remain on the Major League roster for a full year, or be offered back to his original team. This year, the Mets will have some interesting decisions to make. Two of their most promosing talent cohorts in recent years (the 2008 draft class and the 2007 international crop) are becoming Rule 5 eligible at the same time. I expect several of the names on this list to be added to the 40-man roster ahead of the November 18th deadline (thus protecting them from the draft). However given the limited number of spots on the 40-man, there will still likely be a few players the Mets would rather not lose available to the other 29 teams on December 8th.
List of 2011 Mets’ Rule 5 eligibles
AA (17): Eric Campbell, Robert Carson, Rhiner Cruz, Allan Dykstra, Jeurys Familia, Michael Fisher, Kai Gronauer, Reese Havens, Brad Holt, Juan Lagares, Collin McHugh, Roy Merritt, Brandon Moore, Edgar Ramirez, Sean Ratliff, Tobi Stoner, Erik Turgeon
Adv A (17): Eric Beaulac, Matt Bouchard, Juan Centeno, Dock Doyle, Wilmer Flores, Jim Fuller, Jeff Kaplan, Jefry Marte, Scott Moviel, Eric Niesen, Francisco Pena, Michael Powers, Cesar Puello, Adrian Rosario, Brant Rustich, Stefan Welch, Pedro Zapata
For Mets information on rules, procedures, and transactions detail, including options, free agency, arbitration, the draft, Rule 5 eligibility, an org-wide disabled list, waivers, releases, and more, be sure to check out tpgMets