High and inside: Arbitration deadline, JFK and Stan the Man

November, 22, 2010
On deck circle: Tuesday is an important day on the hot-stove calendar. It is the deadline for teams to determine whether they intend to offer salary arbitration to their own free agents. Why does that matter? Any team offering a Type A free agent salary arbitration is assured of receiving two draft picks as compensation if that free agent elects to sign with another team. Players offered arbitration have a week to decide whether to accept; any player who does in essence becomes a signed player.

Hypothetical: Adrian Beltre is a Type A free agent. The Red Sox offer him salary arbitration, thereby ensuring that they will get two picks if he signs elsewhere--a first- or second-round pick from the team that signs him, and a supplemental first-round “sandwich pick” (which means it comes between the first and second rounds). Let’s say Beltre is unhappy with the offers he is receiving from other teams and elects to accept salary arbitration. That means he belongs to the Red Sox for the 2011 season, and if the sides cannot agree on a salary, he has the right to file for arbitration and let an arbitrator decide.

OK, back to reality: The Red Sox have two Type A free agents—Beltre and catcher Victor Martinez. It is a no-brainer they will offer them salary arbitration. There is no chance either player will accept. Both are in demand, with the Tigers seeing Martinez as a perfect fit (and hoping to fend off the Rangers and Orioles among others), while Oakland reportedly has already made an aggressive move for Beltre after he spurned a better deal from the Athletics last season to sign a one-year deal with the Sox.

But the significance for the Sox goes beyond their own free agents. GM Theo Epstein will watch what other clubs do, especially with the sizable number of relievers available. Tampa Bay, for example, has three Type A relievers: Rafael Soriano, Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler. Toronto has two in left-hander Scott Downs, whom the Sox had interest in at the trading deadline before the price got too high, and Jason Frasor. Offering arbitration to closer Soriano is a given; he’s a wanted man. There’s a bit more risk in offering the others arbitration, because some teams shopping for bullpen help won’t want to give up draft picks for middle relievers, especially after the Joaquin Benoit signing by Detroit (3 years, $16.5 million) set a high bar. Next June’s draft looks particularly attractive, Epstein says, though for the right reliever and the right deal he says he’d be willing to cough up picks.

Other Type A relievers include Franklin Francisco (Texas) and Matt Guerrier (Twins). There are some recognizable names in the Type B class (sandwich pick as compensation, no loss of a pick from the signing team), including Kerry Wood (Yankees), J.J. Putz (White Sox), Pedro Feliciano (Mets), Chad Qualls (Rays), Brian Fuentes (Twins) Kevin Gregg (Jays), and John Rauch (Twins).

The big names that the Sox are expected to bid for, Jayson Werth (Phillies) and Carl Crawford (Rays), are both Type A’s and will be offered arbitration.

Other items on the baseball calendar this week: National League MVP to be announced Monday, AL MVP on Tuesday. Beltre should finish in the top 10, perhaps in the top six. I expect Josh Hamilton of the Rangers to win, with Robinson Cano of the Yankees second and Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers third. Joe Mauer of the Twins, Crawford and Evan Longoria of the Rays, Paul Konerko of the White Sox could knock Beltre out of the top six.

Upcoming dates of significance: A week from Thursday (Dec. 2), teams must decide whether to tender contracts to players on their roster. Any player who is nontendered becomes a free agent. The winter meetings are scheduled to begin the following Monday (Dec. 6) in Orlando, meaning clubs will be able to identify all free agents by the time they convene. In the past, the tender date came after the winter meetings.

The Sox usually announce their spring-training schedule sometime around Thanksgiving: Feb. 13 is MLB’s voluntary reporting date for pitchers and catchers, which is the day Sox pitchers and catchers are expected to be rolling in as well.

The Upton file: The Red Sox undoubtedly will continue to engage Arizona GM Kevin Towers in talks regarding Justin Upton, the 23-year-old outfielder that Towers has said he’s willing to entertain offers for. Remember, the Sox have made big news during Thanksgiving week on at least two occasions—Epstein and Jed Hoyer went to Curt Schilling’s house for Thanksgiving dinner in 2003 and announced a deal for the right-hander the next day, and with Epstein on hiatus, Bill Lajoie and Craig Shipley executed the 2005 deal that brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston for Hanley Ramirez.

At the same time, you can be sure Epstein is also keeping the lines open to his good pal Hoyer regarding slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres.

The Sox, of course, are hardly the only team casting covetous eyes on Upton. Prospective packages from interested teams are outlined here in ESPN's Rumor Central

Lights out in the desert: The Arizona Fall League finished play Saturday, ending with the Scottsdale Scorpions edging the Peoria Javelinas, 3-2, in the title game. Three Sox prospects played for the losers. Shortstop Jose Iglesias went 0 for 4 but started a sweet double play; catcher Ryan Lavarnway batted cleanup, walked and scored a run, and pitcher Jason Rice threw a scoreless inning of relief. Top pitching prospect Casey Kelly already had shut down for the season and did not play.

Stan the Man and JFK: Stan Musial, who is to St. Louis what Ted Williams was to Boston, turned 90 on Sunday, a few days after receiving the news that President Obama intends to honor him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Bernie Miklasz, the terrific columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, noted in a recent column that Musial and President Kennedy were old friends.

Writes Miklasz: "The Man batted .330 with a .417 on-base percentage and a .508 slugging percentage in 1962 at age 41. In a telegram from the White House, Musial's friend, President John F. Kennedy, quipped, 'You made all of us believe that life really begins at 40.' Musial and his fellow Catholic JFK were friends. Musial referred to Kennedy as 'my buddy.' They often corresponded until Kennedy's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.

One more Musial-JFK anecdote from Miklasz: "The Man was so popular and beloved that even a Republican crowd loved him as he campaigned for his friend JFK in 1960. The famous author James Michener once wrote of being with Musial when Stan made a campaign stop for Kennedy in Nebraska. 'In the shadows we saw several hundred silent ranchers awaiting us,' Michener wrote. The crowd declined to applaud the pro-Kennedy celebrities that came to ask for votes. But the silence was broken when Musial's name was announced to the audience. According to Michener: 'A low rumble arose from the crowd, and men pressed forward, dragging their boys and girls with them' to get close to 'an authentic American folk hero.'

Read Miklasz's entire ode to Musial, "90 Things to Love About The Man" here.

A chastened 'King': Jim Leyritz, who played 52 games for the Red Sox in 1998, long enough to give Sox fans a taste of the character known as "The King" during his nine years with the Yankees, escaped a potentially long jail sentence when a jury found him not guilty of DUI manslaughter charges in connection with an auto accident three years ago in which a 30-year-old woman was killed after her car was struck by a car driven by Leyritz. Leyritz instead was found guilty of a misdemeanor DUI charge and faces a maximum of six months. The more serious charges could have resulted in a 15-year prison sentence. Leyritz earlier settled a civil suit with the victim's family, which will receive an insurance payout of $250,000 and payments of $1,000 a month from Leyritz for 100 months. You can read the full story here.

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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