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Worst values among Elias Type A and B free agents

Dewayne Staats’s son-in-law, Dan Wheeler, had a much worse two-year FIP than ERA, so he is among the worst Type A free agents.

This week, we’re looking at the best of the Elias-rated Type A and B free agents, the worst of the A’s and B’s and the best of the players who were neither.

Yesterday, we reviewed some of the best deals, based on the disparity between the Elias rating and a player’s two-year average Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which we claimed was a better gauge of a player’s worth. Today, let’s look at some of the worst deals based on the same criteria.

First, the Type-A free agents for whom signing teams will have to surrender a valuable (as in $5.2 million, according to research) first-round draft pick, and for whom incumbent teams whose arbitration offers the player spurns will receive that pick:

Type Player Po Elias 09 WAR 10 WAR Avg WAR Ratio
A Dan Wheeler RP 74.7 0.2 0.1 0.2 497.8
A Matt Guerrier RP 79.6 0.4 0.2 0.3 265.2
A Takashi Saito RP 69.7 0.4 1.2 0.8 87.1
A Bengie Molina C 72.3 1.5 0.4 1.0 76.1
A Arthur Rhodes RP 72.2 1.0 0.9 1.0 76.0
A Frank Francisco RP 73.2 1.1 1.0 1.1 69.7
A Grant Balfour RP 72.9 0.9 1.2 1.1 69.5
A Scott Downs RP 76.4 1.0 1.2 1.1 69.4
A Billy Wagner RP 83.3 0.4 2.2 1.3 64.1
A Jason Frasor RP 73.4 1.4 0.9 1.2 63.8
A Ramon Hernandez C 74.5 0.4 2.6 1.5 49.7

As you can see, the list is exclusively comprised of relievers and catchers, which suggests an inefficiency in Elias or in WAR, though something else may be at work.Since Elias uses the less-than-informative Saves, we’re going to bet it’s Elias, at least to explain the relievers. The sinister combination of winning percentage and saves results in the ludicrous notion that Dan Wheeler is a better player than Hiroki Kuroda. And why would Bengie Molina be rated as an A but Miguel Olivo a B? From an incumbent team’s point-of-view, these players make less sense to offer arbitration to. On the other hand, since the Type-A status has value, it may be worth it for teams that hold options on these players to trade them, as the Rockies did with Olivo, to a team willing to take the gamble of either picking up the option or declining it, paying the buyout and offering arbitration. This of course would require finding a GM who values one of these players more than the incumbent team’s GM does. (As an aside, check out the number of players above who were on playoff teams this season.)

Okay, so what about the B-list? Since there’s really no penalty for signing one, understanding their value is more a concern for their incumbent teams. However, Type-B players also offer the biggest opportunities for signing teams (other than non-rated players), because they can be had with relatively little penalty.

Type Player Po Elias 09 WAR 10 WAR Avg WAR Ratio
B Chad Durbin RP 57.5 -0.5 0.3 -0.1  
B Aaron Heilman RP 58.4 0.3 0.1 0.2 292.1
B Kerry Wood RP 62.8 0.4 0.1 0.3 251.1
B Kevin Gregg RP 67.0 -0.2 0.8 0.3 223.2
B Brian Fuentes RP 67.1 0.3 0.4 0.4 191.6
B Octavio Dotel RP 66.5 0.8 0.1 0.5 147.7
B Trevor Hoffman RP 62.8 1.5 -0.6 0.5 139.6
B Randy Choate RP 62.5 0.4 0.5 0.5 138.8
B Jason Varitek C 64.7 0.4 0.7 0.6 117.7
B Mike Lowell 3B 62.6 1.1 0.0 0.6 113.8
B Jesse Crain RP 60.7 0.4 0.8 0.6 101.1
B Pedro Feliciano RP 66.9 0.6 0.8 0.7 95.5
B Gerald Laird C 60.0 1.5 -0.2 0.7 92.4
B J.J. Putz RP 62.2 0.0 1.5 0.8 83.0
B Chad Qualls RP 56.2 1.1 0.3 0.7 80.2
B Jon Rauch RP 69.1 0.7 1.1 0.9 76.8
B Brad Hawpe OF 70.8 1.4 0.5 1.0 74.5
B Scott Podsednik OF 69.9 1.8 0.4 1.1 63.5
B Orlando Cabrera SS 66.7 0.8 1.3 1.1 63.5
B Rod Barajas C 59.5 0.8 1.2 1.0 59.5

It would seem that the same statistical principles that resulted in the bad-buy Type-A list apply to this group. With such bad recent performances, these guys fall into the category of "offer arbitration at your own risk." As we noted yesterday, only two of 24 players offered arbitration actually accepted, though we should also note that this was a self-selecting group; after all, not every player was offered arbitration. While most of these players will undoubtedly sign somewhere next year, GMs who look at WAR may decide it’s not worth the risk of offering arbitration. That was almost certainly a factor when the Cardinals jettisoned Felipe Lopez (whom the Red Sox signed likely with an intent to game the Elias system) with only a couple of weeks left in the season.

Speaking of the hometown nine, the Cardinals don’t have any free agents among the Elias ranks. Nonetheless, the classifications will impact their shopping list this winter. The good news is that the worst buys aren’t in the positions where we’ve heard the most concern — shortstop, second base, third base, right field and starting pitcher. With a bullpen chock-full of young talent, the Cardinals can for once hopefully avoid free-agent relief pitching, especially since most of the Elias-rated players would be rip-offs (by the way, the Cardinals should thank their dumb luck that Brian Fuentes spurned their offer a couple of years ago). On the other hand, if the Cardinals decide to hire an "offensive-minded" backup catcher, as Bernie Miklasz claimed John Mozeliak intends, we hope they at least avoid overrated Type-A’s like Ramon Hernandez and Bengie Molina and opt for Type-B’s like Olivo, John Buck or Yorvit Torrealba.

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