Cardinals Free Agents and Elias Rankings

With the release of the yearly Elias Player Rankings, the potential compensation for the nine potential Cardinals free agents is clear, as well as what it would take to sign other teams' departing free agents.

Just as they are each year at this time, the player rankings for 2009 have been released by Major League Baseball, prepared for them by the Elias Scouting Bureau. These Elias Player Rankings are used to determine compensation level for free agents moving between teams.

Based on a comparison of players' statistics over the past two seasons, all players are ranked as one of three Types – A, B or no compensation. One major intent is to ensure a former team is compensated when losing a key player via free agency.

Elias runs statistical calculations for all players each league, free agent or not, based on two-year results in areas like plate appearances, batting average, on-base percentage, home runs and runs batted in for position players and starts, innings, ERA, strikeouts and saves for pitchers.

Each player is scored relative to their position, or more accurately in some cases, groupings of positions. There are five groupings: (1) catcher; (2) first base and outfield; (3) second base, third base and shortstop; (4) starting pitcher and (5) relief pitcher.

Statistically, the top 20 percent of players are called Type A and the next 20 percent are labeled Type B. The remainder generate no compensation when signing with a new club.

If a Type A player offered arbitration by his current club signs with a new one instead, the old club receives two compensatory picks. The first-round pick is taken from the signing club or (if in first half of draft) their second-round pick is given to the current club. In addition, the current club is awarded a new pick, a sandwich pick at end of first round of the next June's draft.

In the case of a Type B free agent, only the sandwich pick is awarded to the current team. The new team is not penalized.

The nine Cardinals free agents and their Elias Rankings are as follows:

Free agent  Rank
Matt Holliday A
Mark DeRosa B
Joel Pineiro B
Troy Glaus B
Todd Wellemeyer NC
Rick Ankiel NC
Jason LaRue NC
John Smoltz NC
Khalil Greene NC

On Thursday, the first day eligible, seven of the nine filed for free agency. The other two, Todd Wellemeyer and Joel Pineiro are sure to follow.

Remember that to secure any compensation for a Type A or B, the Cardinals must first offer arbitration to the free agent and then the player must turn down the opportunity. There is one exception, however.

Compensation is also awarded if the player signs elsewhere prior to the arbitration deadline. For example, if Joel Pineiro agrees to terms with another club before December 1, the Cardinals receive compensation just the same as if they had offered him arbitration.

For the 15 days following the completion of the World Series, the Cardinals retain exclusive negotiating rights with their free agents, or this year through November 20. That is the same deadline for Wellemeyer and Pineiro to file.

There is inherent risk built into the system, as the club may not want to risk getting tied down just to pick up an extra draft pick. As a result, expect fewer players to be offered rather than more.

What's next? In part two of this article, for subscribers, I will offer my predictions as to which players will be offered arbitration and why.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.

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