The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had much experience with free agent compensation picks in the last 20+ years. They got a pick for Ryan Doumit leaving in 2012. Prior to that, their last supplemental picks were in the 1993 draft, which they received for the departures of Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek.
That was all under an old system. The new CBA, which went into effect three years ago, changed the process of receiving comp picks for free agents. Teams can only receive a compensation pick by issuing a qualifying offer to a player, which is worth $15.3 M. If the player turns it down and signs with another team, the former team gets a draft pick.
Under the old system, the former team would get two picks for a “Type A” free agent — a compensation pick given by the league after the first round, and the first round pick from the signing team (unless the signing team picked in the top 15 picks, in which case the former team would receive the signing team’s second round pick).
The new system only awards one pick, which is the compensation pick after the first round, awarded by the league. The signing team still loses their first round pick, although this doesn’t go to anyone. Instead, it just disappears, and everyone moves up a spot in the draft. I’m not sure why a signing team still gets punished for signing a player who has compensation coming their way. Well, I do know why. It suppresses the market for those players, and keeps prices down. And it’s effective too, but raises questions about why players who were traded during season don’t have to be subject to the same restrictions. This is probably an entirely different discussion for a different article.
Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano both rejected their qualifying offers today, which means if they sign elsewhere, the Pirates will get two compensation picks after the first round, giving them their first compensation picks under the new system. Last year the compensation picks were in the 28-34 range. In 2013 they were in the 27-33 range. The picks are awarded in reverse order of the standings, which means that the Pirates could end up high on that list. Here are the current teams who could receive comp picks, and the order in which they’d pick after the first round.
1. Colorado Rockies (Michael Cuddyer)*
2. Atlanta Braves (Ervin Santana)
3. Toronto Blue Jays (Melky Cabrera)
4. New York Yankees (David Robertson)
5. San Francisco Giants (Pablo Sandoval)
6. Pittsburgh Pirates (Russell Martin)
7. Pittsburgh Pirates (Francisco Liriano)
8. Kansas City Royals (James Shields)
9. Detroit Tigers (Victor Martinez)
10. Detroit Tigers (Max Scherzer)
11. Los Angeles Dodgers (Hanley Ramirez)
12. Baltimore Orioles (Nelson Cruz)
If any of these players sign with their former team, no compensation pick would be awarded. So far, the only player to sign elsewhere is Cuddyer, and I’ll get to him in a second. As for the Pirates, they would have to hope that the other four players ahead of them sign with their former teams in order to move up. I think that’s likely for the Yankees and Robertson. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of Santana, Cabrera, and Sandoval re-signs with their former team. That could put the Pirates picking 31st and 32nd. If the 28-34 range still holds up, then the Pirates will almost certainly get their two comp picks in the top 35 picks, giving them three picks in this range.
As for the first round pick, the Pirates had the number 23 pick entering the day. They moved up one spot when the Mets signed Michael Cuddyer, forfeiting the number 15 overall pick. They could continue to move up if teams ahead of them sign one of the players above (unless it’s a team re-signing one of the above players). Here is the updated list of teams that could lose their pick (the top 11 picks are protected).
17. Blue Jays
Of that list, I’d say the Yankees are always a threat to sign a qualifying free agent. The Mariners made a big splash last year with Robinson Cano. The Braves gave up their pick to sign Ervin Santana. The Pirates are currently picking at number 22 right now, which means they could easily end up inside of the top 20 by the end of it. My guess is that they’ll likely pick three times in the 19-32 range, assuming Liriano and Martin sign elsewhere. John Dreker looked at who could be available in that range a few weeks ago.
From a money standpoint in the draft, those three picks would probably amount to around $5.5 M to spend. The rest of the pool would be at least $3 M, based on what the Pirates had available last year (when picking lower in the draft). I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates ended up with around $9 M to spend in the 2015 draft. That would be about what they had to spend in 2013, when they landed Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire in the first round, plus JaCoby Jones, Cody Dickson, Buddy Borden, and Billy Roth in the middle rounds. It would also give them one of the top bonus pools in the draft, with a figure that would have been in the top five in the last two drafts. The Pirates are picking much lower in the 2015 draft than they were in 2013, but with the same amount of money potentially available, they could get very creative with how they spent it.
Once again, all of that assumes Martin and Liriano sign elsewhere. If that happens, the Pirates will have to first get creative with their approach to the 2014-15 off-season before thinking about the draft approach.
Links and Notes
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.