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Is it time to do something about “gentleman’s agreements” free agents make to decline arbitration?

Nov 24, 2010, 11:46 AM EDT

Trevor Hoffman 2

Just like the Yankees and Javier Vazquez, the Brewers and Trevor Hoffman came to a “gentleman’s agreement” that Hoffman will decline what at first glance appeared to be a shocking arbitration offer.

Hoffman made $7.5 million this season and under normal circumstances the Brewers offering him arbitration would essentially be like putting a one-year, $7.5 million deal on the table.

However, because Hoffman has already agreed to decline the arbitration offer there’s no risk of that for the Brewers and instead they’ll basically just get a free second-round draft pick should he sign elsewhere.

Vazquez and the Yankees reached the same type of agreement yesterday and Ken Rosenthal of speculates that Orlando Hudson and the Twins have as well.

All three players are Type B free agents, so the agreements don’t change the fact that teams signing them can do so without forfeiting draft picks. Instead the only change is that their old teams can get the benefit of a compensatory draft pick without having to take the risk of truly offering arbitration. It’s definitely gaming the system and with at least two and possibly three or more cases this offseason it seems likely that MLB will (or at least should) attempt to close the loophole somehow going forward.

  1. andrewkw - Nov 24, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    What’s wrong with helping out you former team? Not every free agent leaves on bad terms.

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Nov 24, 2010 at 12:27 PM

      I only have a problem if the former team is a team I dislike.

  2. paperlions - Nov 24, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    It’s an abuse of the rules. The pick is to compensate a team for a player they would have like to keep, but couldn’t for cost/FA reasons….they are not intended as gifts for teams that lose players they had no desire to keep in the first place.

  3. Utley's Hair - Nov 24, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    To me, these are akin to the stuff that seems to happen a lot in the NBA with multiplayer trades. Teams trade for two or three players, then immediately release the ones that weren’t the main target, allowing the others to resign with their old team. Or resigning fogeys that haven’t played in years so they can be traded. It’s bogus. It seems unethical.

  4. ramsbladdercup - Nov 24, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    The other issue is that these sandwich picks move back 2nd round picks. Therefore this does affect those teams with early 2nd round picks since guys they may have picked there will no longer be available.

  5. kcfanatic - Nov 24, 2010 at 1:16 PM

    I wouldlike to see someone act like they would decline arbitration, and then accept it. It would teach the greedy owners/GM’s a lesson. Unfortunately, it would probably not teach the greedy players/agents anything.

  6. scottp9 - Nov 24, 2010 at 7:03 PM

    I don’t understand why this is described as some sort of problem. Presumably these players got something for their agreement not to accept arbitration. If so, why shouldn’t they be able to trade their potential right to accept arbitration for something else of value to them – especially if the club would never offer but for the assurance that the player will not accept?

  7. dan1111 - Nov 25, 2010 at 8:54 AM

    The real solution is to get rid of draft pick compensation. This system was meant to compensate small-market teams for losing their free agents. However, it doesn’t work. If anything, the high-payroll teams get more benefit from it. They sign more contracts with top free agents, and they are more willing to offer arbitration, since they can bear the risk of the player accepting.

    The compensation is also detrimental to the players involved, since teams having to give up draft picks to sign them lowers their value.

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