A very active thread on our message board is
focused on discussion over whether or not the club should offer former St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen a one-year, incentive-laden contract to
return for an eighth season.
Prior to the end of the 2008
campaign, there were rumblings that the Cardinals might want his veteran
presence back in the bullpen to help the younger relievers such as Chris Perez
and Jason Motte.
The general sentiment among those
members of The Cardinal Nation commenting seems to be that it would be
acceptable if the club made a low offer of an undefined amount with additional
incentives if Izzy excels next season. Based on recent quotes, the player seems
to be expecting this kind of offer, too.
As an aside, the latter could not
be based on actual results, as “incentives” can only include measurements like
number of appearances, games finished, innings pitched, awards received and the
Not even getting into the stats,
expectations, baggage and risks involved with bringing Isringhausen back, here
is why it is not worthy of serious discussion until December.
The two issues are timing and
compensation, but when are they ever anything else?
As background, here are the
End of the World
player has 15 days from then to file to become a free agent. Once the 15 days
are past, the filing player is free to sign with any organization. Prior to
then, the former club holds exclusive signing rights.
End of October
Rankings are released. These determine the level of compensation involved if a
free agent signs with a new club.
From 15 days after the end of
World Series through December 1: If the player signs elsewhere,
the previous club receives compensation for the player just as if arbitration
had been offered.
December 1: The former organization must
decide whether or not to offer arbitration to the free agent. If they do not
offer, they receive no compensation when the player signs with another
December 7: The player must accept or reject
the offer if made. If the player accepts, he is back on his prior club’s roster.
If the two sides cannot come to agreement by February, the actual one-year
salary amount would be decided via an arbitration hearing.
On the other hand, if the player
declines the offer, he becomes a free agent eligible to sign anywhere for any
amount, but strings are attached. His new signing team will be required to
forfeit their first or second round draft pick if the player is ranked in the
top 30% at their position (Type A) in the Elias rankings.
(The first vs. second round
determination is tied to where the signing club ended the previous season in
wins. If they are in the bottom half of MLB, they get to keep their
first-rounder. The poorer clubs would lose their second-round pick when signing
a Type A.)
Instead, if the player is
designated a Type B (ranked 31% to 50% vs. his peers), the old club receives an
extra compensatory draft pick between rounds one and two, but the new club loses
nothing more than having to pick one spot later in rounds two through
Now that we are through all the
procedural mumbo-jumbo, what does it mean to the Cardinals and Isringhausen?
It means nothing of substance is
likely to happen until at least December. Here’s
End of the World
Series: Izzy will
certainly file for free agency during the 15 days following the end of the World
End of October
the Elias formulas are secret, one enterprising blogger
has attempted to break the code. His projection has Izzy as a Type A free agent,
primarily due to his solid 2007 season, though dragged down somewhat by his
From 15 days after the end of
World Series through December 1: If Izzy is a Type A, no other
organization will be motivated to sign him during this period. If they did, they
would forfeit their first or second round draft pick next June.
As a result, even if the Cardinals
make an early offer to Izzy, he may have a hard time securing competitive bids
from other clubs against which to measure the Cards’ proposed
Yet if Izzy is highly motivated to
return to St. Louis at any reasonable price, he could hop
on the first offer given him – if one is made. On the other hand, the Cardinals
could decide to bide their time, waiting to see what other relief options become
December 1: The Cardinals would not offer
arbitration to Izzy due to the risk of having to pay an inflated one-year deal
via the arbitration process. Not offering arbitration means they receive no
compensation if Izzy signs elsewhere. Either way, offer or not, the Cardinals
are still free to negotiate with the player without
Some have asked why the Cardinals
don’t make a pre-agreement with Izzy that he would decline their arbitration
offer. That would be good for the Cardinals as they would get a compensatory
draft pick or two if Izzy signed elsewhere.
However, for Izzy, this agreement
would be a bad move if he is named a Type A. That is due to the draft pick a new
signing team would have to forfeit. Instead, if Izzy is non-tendered by the
Cardinals, his new team would not have to give up a draft pick in signing him.
If the player is thinking clearly, he isn’t going to want to give up that
If a Type
For purposes of this article, I
had assumed the blogger’s Type A projection to be accurate, but in reality it
doesn’t matter too much. Even if Izzy was to be a Type B instead, the Cardinals
would still not offer him due to the risk of an arbitrator possibly setting his
Izzy being a Type B would mean
that other organizations would lose their de-motivation to try to sign him prior
to December 1. In other words, it could accelerate the reliever’s
decision-making process – if he receives substantive offers early in the
off-season, that is.
Given the dates and decision
scenarios above, Izzy's recent elbow surgery coupled with his projected Type A free agent status should keep other organizations’ interest relatively low, at least until after the Cardinals make the December decision not to offer him
Another alternative is that both
parties, Izzy and the Cardinals, get together quickly on a 2009 deal that both
sides would consider fair. I question the Cardinals’ motivation for wanting to
act fast, however, as they may prefer to see if the grass is greener on the
I wouldn’t blame them one bit if
they took their sweet time.
Brian Walton can be reached via
email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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