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.

Free Agency

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

MLB (8): Miguel Batista, Tim Byrdak, Chris Capuano, Scott Hairston, Willie Harris, Jason Isringhausen, Jose Reyes, Chris Young

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

AA (6): Jean Luc Blaquiere, Ricky Brooks, Brahiam Maldonado, Jonathan Malo, Niuman Romero, Dusty Ryan

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

FA after 2012: Taylor Buchholz, Angel Pagan, Ronny Paulino
FA after 2013: Mike Pelfrey
FA after 2014: Manny Acosta
FA after 2015: Bobby Parnell (potential Super Two)

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

AAA (5): Mark Cohoon, Jose De La Torre, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Dylan Owen, Raul Reyes

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

A (10): Rafael Fernandez, Gonzalez Germen, Alonzo Harris, Guillame Leduc, Ronny Morla, Luis Nieves, Luis Rojas, Miguel Tejada, Juan Torres, Wilfredo Tovar

SS A (5): Eduardo Aldama, Chris Hilliard, Richard Lucas, Orlando Tovar, Amauris Valdez

Rookie (5): Julio Concepcion, Jeyckol De Leon, Lachlan Hodge, Nestor Moreno, Breiner Soto

Other (2): Mitchell Houck, Ramiro Peralta

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

14 comments on “Free agency, Arbitration, and the Rule 5 Draft

  • Brian Joura

    Great work Chris – there’s a bunch of interesting stuff in here. Here are the things that really jumped out at me:

    1 – The Mets have a ton of guys to add to the 40-man
    2 – It’s amazing that Reyes might only be a Type B free agent. What a kick in the pants that would be if he left and the Mets only got 1 pick out of it.
    3 – I didn’t realize Buchholz and Paulino were still arbitration eligible. Not sure if that’s good or bad.
    4 – Parnell seems he’s been around forever and he’s only a Super-Two candidate?!?

    • Chris Walendin

      Thanks, Brian.

      1 – Sure do. I’m particularly interested to see what they do with guys like Cesar Puello and Wilmer Flores. They’re both immensely talented, but still quite raw and very young. Would another team be willing to try to hide him on their ML roster for ALL of 2012 despite the fact that neither has played above A-ball?

      2 – MLBTR updated their rankings and Reyes climbed up 2 spots. So there’s a little more buffer between him and Type B now. One explanation for his rankings is that the NL has a reasonably strong group of 2B, 3B, and SS. Those positions are treated as one group when they’re ranked to determine compensation. Also, a few of the stats used to determine the ranking (namely HR and RBI) are categories that will hurt Reyes. His down year in 2010 will mitigate his strong 2011 in the AVG and OBP categories. Even with the missed time, though, he’ll rank near the top in PA and total chances, though. FWIW, I’m not too concerned. I fully expect he’ll maintain his Type A status.

      3 – Whether they keep them or non-tender them, having exclusive control is always good. I see them keeping Paulino. But I think their decision on Buchholz will have everything to do with whether they think he’ll stay healthy (physically and mentally) in 2012.

      4 – I know, right? And it’s even more striking since Parnell is very likely to miss the Super Two cut. It’s easy to forget that he spent almost half of the 2010 season in the minor leagues. He’ll have 2 years, 132 days of ML service at the end of the season. The most recent projected cut-off for Super Two status I’ve seen is 2 years, 145 days. So Parnell will most likely play the 2012 season for close to a league minimum salary before finally being arbitration eligible for the first time next winter. Daniel Murphy (2 years, 109 days) and Jon Niese (2 years, 107 days) were the next closest Mets.

  • LGM

    Chris – could the Mets open up a 40-man roster spot by taking off Carrasco? If they remove him from the 40-man, do they lose all rights to him or do they just leave him exposed to other teams?

    Could they put someone like Flores on the 40-man for the Rule 5 and then once that’s over take him off and put Carrasco back on? Or would that still expose Flores to other teams?

    Thanks in advance for your answer.

    • Chris Walendin

      “Could the Mets open up a 40-man roster spot by taking off Carrasco? If they remove him from the 40-man, do they lose all rights to him or do they just leave him exposed to other teams?”

      The Mets could remove Carrasco from the 40-man roster. However, given his ML service time and contract, realistically speaking, they would have to release him in order to do so. And in that event, they’d still be on the hook for the $1.2M they owe him for 2012.

      “Could they put someone like Flores on the 40-man for the Rule 5 and then once that’s over take him off and put Carrasco back on? Or would that still expose Flores to other teams?”

      I like your out-of-the-box thinking. But if the Mets added Flores to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, he’d be on there for the foreseeable future. If they were to remove him at any point after they added him, he would have to clear waivers in order to be sent back down to the minors. If, however, they were to add Flores to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft and NOT remove him, then next spring, they’d have to option him down to the minors.

      That’s another thing to consider with some of these really raw guys that are Rule 5 eligible. If Flores is added to the 40-man this November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, then 2012 will have to be his first option year. If, however, the Mets roll the dice and Flores survives the Rule 5 draft unselected, then they can assign him to the minors without using an option.

      Thanks for the questions. I hope that cleared things up for you.

  • Brian Joura

    In regards to Flores, are the options as important as they otherwise would be? Wouldn’t he be eligible to be a 6-year minor league free agent before his options would be used up?

    • Chris Walendin

      Players on the 40-man roster are ineligible for minor league free agency, so it wouldn’t be an issue.

      • Brian Joura

        Sorry, I didn’t make myself clear.

        If the Mets add Flores to the 40-man, they start burning up his options when they send him to the minors in 2012. Ordinarily, you don’t want to use options any sooner than you have to. But in Flores’ case, because of minor league free agency – isn’t it six one way, half dozen the other? I guess they could expose him this year and look to add him to the 40-man following the 2012 season, which would give the Mets an extra year of team control. But after what happened with Jesus Flores – is it worth the risk?

        • Chris Walendin

          If the Mets add Flores to the 40-man, then you figure 2012, 2013, and 2014 are his option years. So by Spring Training in 2015, he’s gotta make the team for good or face waivers.

          If the Mets don’t add Flores to the 40-man this year, and he goes unclaimed in the Rule 5 draft, then you’d assume they’d have to add him to the 40-man next year. So 2013, 2014, and 2015 would presumably be his option years.

          That’s the decision facing Sandy Alderson this fall. Leaving Flores unprotected from the Rule 5 draft this year buys you another year of control with Flores, AND perhaps more importantly an open spot on the 40-man for the next calendar year. But it also leaves you exposed to the risk that he gets selected, a la Jesus Flores.

          Minor league free agency doesn’t really play a role here, though, because it’s unlikely that Flores could ever make it all the way to minor league free agency (at least while he’s still a prospect of some value) without first being selected in the Rule 5 draft or added to the Mets’ 40-man roster. The only ways Flores becomes a minor league free agent while with the Mets are:

          1) he doesn’t get added to the 40-man or selected in the Rule 5 draft for the next few years (in which case he’d become a minor league free agent in either fall 2013 or fall 2014, depending on the specific language of his contract), or

          2) he gets added to the 40-man, DFA’d, clears waivers, and then gets added to the 40-man, gets DFA’d, and clears waivers a second time all before the fall of 2013 or 2014.

          Neither of those cases seem very likely to me, though, unless Flores fades into the abyss. In which case, it wouldn’t really matter anyway.

          Sorry if this explanation is a little tough to follow. It’s sort of a casserole of procedural minutiae. But I think it’s interesting to think about. Particularly when things are less than inspiring with the big league club.

  • Should the Mets re-sign Ronny Paulino? | Mets360

    […] to a one-year contract after he was non-tendered by the Marlins following the 2010 season. As Chris pointed out last week, Paulino is not a free agent following the year. Instead, he is arbitration-eligible. So, should […]

  • andrew silvestri

    i would the ny mets protect five players flores /wilmer/wheeler/harvey/falima/j/ mejias

  • andrew silvestri

    mets protect five players wheeler/mejias/harvey/felima/wlilmer flores

    • Chris Walendin

      Mejia’s on the 40-man roster, so he’s already protected, and neither Wheeler nor Harvey is eligible for the Rule 5 draft, so neither need to be protected. Jeurys Familia is as close to a lock as anyone to be protected this fall. Flores is a tougher call. Purely on talent they’d want to protect him. However, he’s so far from big league ready that it’s difficult to envision another club giving him an active roster spot all year next year. Additionally, by not protecting Flores, the Mets would keep an additional 40-man roster spot available all year AND retain control of Flores for an extra year. We’ll have to wait and see how Sandy Alderson plays it this fall.

  • andrew silvestri

    can answer why flres not at najor laegue 3 or 4 taers what doing with kid

  • andrew silvestri

    can please tell me what are doing with flores /wilmer inf 3 to 4 years in minor projected 2014

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