Clearing Up Morris' Compensation – Or Not!

It seems like such a simple question. What compensation in next year's draft will the Cardinals receive in exchange for the Giants signing Matt Morris?

What will the Cardinals get for Matt Morris? There is both a simple answer and a more complex one.

The simple answer is that the Cardinals will receive two picks for Morris – likely a second-rounder from the Giants plus a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds. But, only the latter of the two is firmly decided as of yet.

Morris is a Type A player, ranked in the top 30% of MLB starting pitchers based on stats from the last two seasons. Specifically, statistically Morris is ranked at 73.477 (#18 of 94 starters). As a Type A, because the Cardinals offered Morris arbitration, they would get the Giants' first rounder – unless the Giants pick in the first half of the first round - which they do.

The Giants' 75-win season was tenth-worst in baseball in 2005, which means they draft tenth of 30 teams in each round of the June, 2006 draft. Because of that, the Giants get to keep their first rounder and the best the Cards will get is the Giants' second-rounder, instead.

However, even getting that second-rounder is not assured. It all depends on which other players San Francisco sign (if any). If the Giants select a higher-ranked Type A player at any position compared to Morris' 73.477 score who had been offered arbitration from his previous team, then that team will get the Giants' second-rounder and the Cards drop down the pecking order to receive the Giants' third-rounder for Morris, instead. That process could continue with other picks based on the players' rankings.

After all, that makes sense when you think about it. The team who loses the best player should receive the best pick in return from the signing team.

The good news, in this scenario at least, is that there are only two more unsigned Type A free agents requiring compensation who are ranked higher than Morris, Johnny Damon and Jeff Weaver. As long as neither sign with the Giants, the Cardinals compensation for Morris is set.

In Morris signing with the Giants, the Cardinals were a bit luckier than the Diamondbacks. A couple of weeks ago, the Giants added free agent reliever Tim Worrell, who was ranked just below Morris at 73.096. Until Morris signed, the D'backs were lined up to get the Giants' second-rounder. Now, they will have to settle for a third.

For their former team to be eligible to receive any compensatory pick, the player first needed to be ranked as a Type A, B or C free agent. The player also either needed to have been offered arbitration or if they had been signed prior to the arbitration offering date (December 7 this year), the result is assumed to be that the same as if the player would had been offered later.

That is why some teams are reluctant to sign free agents early in the off-season. Why lose a draft pick if you don't have to? The main reason would be if your competition is willing to forfeit their pick to get their man, of course, or as in the case of the Giants, not wanting to pay first-round bonuses to draft picks.

Case study – 2004 Giants
Here is an example. Last season, these same Giants signed three Type A free agents who were all eligible for compensation – shortstop Omar Vizquel, closer Armando Benitez and former Cardinal catcher Mike Matheny. Since the Giants were in the top half of MLB in terms of wins in 2004, they drafted in the second half of each round (inverse order of standings). As a result, they had to forfeit their first-rounder (and second and third in this case).

The date sequence in which the three Type A free agents were signed does not matter. Which of the Giants' picks went to the Indians for Vizquel, the Marlins for Benitez and the Cardinals for Matheny was solely based on their Elias scores.

Benitez' score was 85.478 among relievers. Matheny scored 72.973 in the catcher's pool, while Vizquel was scored 66.234 among middle infielders. As a result, the Giants sent their first-round pick (#22 overall) for Benitez to the Marlins, their second rounder (#72) to the Cardinals for Matheny and the third-round pick (#104) for Vizquel to Cleveland.

How many sandwich picks?
The number of the extra compensatory picks between the first and second round will depend on how many Type A free agents sign with other teams. What we know for sure at this point is that the Cardinals will select at the end of the compensatory picks because of their best-in-baseball 2005 record. The exact number of that pick, likely between #38 and #40, is not known yet. As noted above, that will depend on where Damon and Weaver sign.

For the Cards' 2006 draft
So, at this time, it looks like the Cardinals will have their own pick at #30, Morris' supplemental pick around #40, the Giants' second-round pick around #50, their own second-round pick around #70, followed by a pick just after - between the second and third rounds - in return for Type C player Abraham Nunez having signed with Philadelphia prior to the arbitration offering date.

No other Cardinals players were offered arbitration, so that is it in terms of draft picks to be gained.

I have said previously that I disagree, so I will make the point quickly and move on. By not taking a small chance that Julian Tavarez and Reggie Sanders would accept offers of arbitration, the Cardinals likely forfeited three more early picks in the 2006 draft. An overly-cautious, bad decision, in my view.

But, it is not over
If the Cards were to sign either Damon or Weaver, they would forfeit their first-round selection (#30). Plus, while not relevant to the Cardinals, their former teams, Boston and the Dodgers respectively, would receive the additional compensatory picks between rounds one and two.

There are also a few Type B free agents still available who were offered arbitration, such as Jacque Jones and Kevin Millwood. If either of these players would be signed by the Cardinals, that first-rounder, #30 overall, would be lost.

While not as important as the player's salary, this potential forfeiture of a draft pick should not be forgotten when evaluating free agent signings.

For additional background: Cardinals Six Year Free Agents Explained

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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