Among the handful of interesting comments on my piece about the Dodgers‘ off-season spending, I found one of them, from reader ofMontreal, worth expanding upon:

I disagree with the idea that Hudson wouldn’t have accepted arbitration. He most likely would have and would be due a raise. And would Wolf really be off the market right now were he not free? I don’t think we can say that either. I think Collett [sic] is rather more justified with a little hindsight. The Dodgers can do better than those 2 for a lot less.

We don’t know the answer to what might have happened had either or both of these players been offered arbitration by the Dodgers. But let’s examine them in the context of the 10 Type A free agents who were offered arbitration this year:

Player             Pos  Age  WARP   Old         New         Yrs Dollars
Chone Figgins       3B   32   7.2   LA Angels   Seattle      4  $36 mil
Matt Holliday       LF   30   6.7   St. Louis   St. Louis    7  $120 mil
Marco Scutaro       2B   34   6.5   Toronto     Boston       2  $12.5 mil
Orlando Hudson*     2B   32   6.1   LA Dodgers  --    
Jason Bay           LF   31   4.7   Boston      NY Mets      4  $66 mil
Randy Wolf*         SP   33   3.8   LA Dodgers  Milwaukee    3  $29.75 mil
John Lackey         SP   31   3.3   LA Angels   Boston       5  $82.5 mil
Rafael Soriano      RP   30   3.1   Atlanta     Tampa Bay**  1  $7.25 mil
Jose Valverde       RP   32   3.1   Houston     Detroit      2  $14 mil
Mike Gonzalez       RP   31   2.2   Atlanta     Baltimore    2  $12 mil
Rafael Betancourt   RP   35   2.1   Colorado    Colorado     1  $7.5 mil
Billy Wagner        RP   38   0.6   Boston      Atlanta      1  $7 mil

*: Not offered arbitration
**: Via trade after signing

I’ve ranked the players according to 2009 WARP to serve as a reminder that both Hudson and Wolf had strong seasons. Hudson made the All-Star team for the second time in his career, won his fourth Gold Glove, and set career bests in both EqA (.286) and WARP even with the September sitdown which soured his relationship with Joe Torre. Wolf, despite being credited with just an 11-7 record, set personal bests for starts (34) and innings (214 1/3), posted his best ERA since 2002 (3.23), tied for fourth in the league in quality starts (24) and finished 11th in the league in SNLVAR (I’ve written those credentials in so many contexts this winter that I’ve practically memorized them).

At this point, all 10 of the Type As have signed contracts for 2010. Seven of them did so with new teams, thus costing their signing teams either a first-round or second-round draft pick. Of those seven, Wagner’s was the only one-year deal, though it included a vesting option for 2011. The questionable exchange of the expected yield of a first-round pick was canceled out by Gonzalez’s departure. Boston’s potential loss of a first-rounder was canceled out, too (and wow, the reports surrounding Bay’s exit are starting to paint an unpleasant picture). Of the remaining three Type-A free agents, Holliday signed a huge multi-year pact with his previous team, and Betancourt and Soriano accepted arbitration and signed with theirs. The latter’s acceptance caught the Braves by surprise after they’d signed Wagner and Takashi Saito, so they quickly flipped him to Tampa Bay.

The sample sizes are obviously small here, but I think we can make some inferences. Let’s start with the guy who signed. Given the perception that Type-B free agent Andy Pettitte had no plans beyond returning to the Yankees, Wolf was clearly the second-best starting pitcher on the market after Lackey. He’d even had a better year than Lackey both by traditional standards (the latter was 11-8 with a 3.83 ERA in 27 starts) and the more advanced metrics. The next tier down, both performance and dollar-wise, appears to be Joel Pineiro (two years, $16 million with the Angels) and Jason Marquis (two years, $15 million with the Nationals), a pair of Type B free agents who are both low-strikeout worm killers coming off their best seasons in at least half a decade. As is Wolf for that matter, though he’s considered less of a one-year wonder because the perceived value of his 12-12, 4.30 ERA, 0.5 WARP 2008 showing is boosted by his late-season run with the Astros.

The team that signed Wolf was the Brewers, who managed to go 80-82 while finishing last in the league in starter ERA (5.37) and SNLVAR (8.0), and thus in dire need of rotation help. As it happens, the Brewers finished with a record more or less at the point of inflection where the marginal dollar value of an additional win starts to climb, so it doesn’t take too great a leap of faith to suppose that they might have been willing to rationalize the punting of the draft pick handcuffed to Wolf had he been offered arbitration. Perhaps that would have lowered their bid on the pitcher somewhat, but I don’t think it would have lessened their desire for a multi-year deal. Even if the entire Milwaukee option wasn’t on the table if Wolf had been offered arbitration, it’s certainly possible that another team which fancies itself a contender (correctly or not) might have been willing to make that same choice. The Mets come to mind, and in a world where they also sign Bay, Wolf would have only cost them a second-round pick. Perhaps the Angels, who having lost two Type As were already going to net compensation picks, would have valued his services more highly than Pineiro. All it takes is one team.

As for Hudson, while he lacks the versatility of Figgins and Scutaro-the other infielders in this set, neither of them perfect comps-he’s got a longer track record of above-average play than either. He’s stuck in a strange market, though. Consider that the Giants, who at 88 wins finished near the summit of the marginal dollar value of a win curve, chose to lock up the similarly aged but significantly inferior Freddy Sanchez for two years before the World Series even ended, rather than wait to see how the market unfolded. Then, of course, Brian Sabean moves in mysterious ways. Sanchez underwent season-ending knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and the word on the street this week is that he just underwent shoulder surgery, threatening his opening day availability. Maybe they should have had Boston’s doctors give him a physical.

The Twins still have a rather sizable opening at second base after getting a combined .209/.302/.267 performance with sub-par defense (-3 FRAA) from their keystone kops (an article on such lineup dead spots is in the pipeline for Monday), though as Steve Goldman reminded the other day, “With the Twins asking for a professional-level infield is apparently like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. It’s just unthinkably demanding and presumptuous.” The Nationals have been sniffing around the O-Dog’s house, too, though it’s not like signing him makes great sense.

At this juncture, Hudson probably would have been better off had he been offered arbitration and accepted. His comments about Torre weren’t over the top by any means, but were critical and certainly fueled the impression that he had no desire to return. The Dodgers may have taken them too personally, leading to a suboptimal business decision. Hudson found himself in the bargain bin last winter because he (and/or his agent, Paul Cohen) misread the market by searching for a long-term, big-dollar deal during an exceptionally tough winter. He’s apparently seeking a larger payday to make up for last year’s shortfall, though he did wind up making about $8 million thanks to his performance bonus. A report linking him to the Nationals suggests he’s asked for $9 million for 2010. It’s not that he’s not worth it. At an average of 4.3 WARP per year over the past four, he is. But with none of the big-money contenders particularly in need of a second baseman, the O-Dog is out in the cold.

Jim Edmonds, who incidentally has the same agent as Hudson, made headlines earlier this week by announcing his intention to make a comeback, whether with the Cardinals or another team. The 39-year-old sat out last year after spending 2008 with the Padres and Cubs, hitting a combined .235/.343/.479 with 20 homers in 401 plate appearances. That season was a real tale of two cities. After being traded out of St. Louis over the winter, he looked totally done in San Diego (.178/.265/.233 with one homer in 103 PA) before drawing his release in early May, but enjoyed a strong rebound in Chicago (.256/.369/.568) in helping the Cubs to a division title.

Strong enough that it was rather surprising he didn’t play in 2009, at least until one considered the toll Edmonds’ all-out style of play had taken on his body over the years; from 1995 (his first full year as a regular) through 2007, he averaged just 131 games per year, most notably missing more than 100 games in 1999 due to a shoulder surgery that had it been undertaken earlier the previous winter would have cost him far less time. A four-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, Edmonds compiled a helluva highlight reel with his play as a center fielder for the Angels (1993-1999) and Cardinals (2000-2007), becoming particularly famous for his diving catches but also drawing criticism for hotdogging and malingering.

Joe Sheehan advanced the notion that Edmonds had a shot at the Hall of Fame a couple of times in recent years, and he’s not the only one. In terms of JAWS, Edmonds scores very well, ranking among the top 10 center fielders of all time thanks to a very strong peak capped by a monster 2004 in which he helped St. Louis win the pennant, finishing third in the league with 9.7 WARP (one win ahead of teammate Albert Pujols) via a .341 EqA (.301/.418/.643 with 42 home runs). Here’s the center field leaderboard:

Player             EqA   RARP   RAP  FRAA  Career   Peak    JAWS
Willie Mays*      .330   1227   872   217   161.3   75.0   118.2
Ty Cobb*          .330   1207   847   -10   139.1   70.3   104.7
Tris Speaker*     .320    932   604   114   122.6   61.0    91.8
Mickey Mantle*    .342   1067   804   -58   112.5   66.3    89.4
Joe DiMaggio*     .326    705   494    54    87.0   60.1    73.6
Ken Griffey       .301    791   467   -83    79.7   51.9    65.8
Jim Edmonds       .300    548   327   102    72.2   51.1    61.7
Billy Hamilton*   .305    453   250    56    66.2   46.5    56.4
AVG HoF CF        .306    563   308    19    68.3   44.0    56.1
Andruw Jones      .278    366   127   182    61.3   47.4    54.4
Richie Ashburn*   .288    399   124   121    61.6   46.9    54.3
George Gore       .294    337   164    88    62.5   44.6    53.6
Carlos Beltran    .290    422   219    95    57.1   48.1    52.6
Jimmy Wynn        .304    521   285    -2    57.1   47.6    52.4
Andre Dawson*     .285    527   190   -11    59.6   40.2    49.9
Bernie Williams   .291    533   274   -32    57.3   40.9    49.1

The bottom five here have been hot topics lately. Gore and Wynn you met last week, a couple of days before Beltran underwent a surgery which caught the Mets with their pants on the ground. Dawson, of course, was elected to the Hall of Fame earlier this month, and Williams, well, everybody wants to know what I think about his chances at reaching Cooperstown. There are 10 other center fielders in the Hall below the ones shown; after Duke Snider (47.0) the quality quickly drops off as guys with short careers (Larry Doby, Kirby Puckett) mingle with ill-considered Veterans Committee picks such as Lloyd (the Wrong Poison) Waner and Hack Wilson.

As for Edmonds, his case is strengthened because he was the real deal defensively. His 93 FRAA in center field (he accumulated the remainder in right field) is tied for 17th all-time, and on par with a pair of his overlapping contemporaries in Beltran and Mike Cameron:

Player         FRAA
Willie Mays     220
Andruw Jones    167
Paul Blair      164
Curt Flood      160
Chet Lemon      139
Devon White     138
Richie Ashburn  115
Tris Speaker    112
Dom DiMaggio    103
Mike Griffin    103
Willie Davis    101
Fielder Jones   100
Gary Pettis      99
Carlos Beltran   94
Mike Cameron     94
Garry Maddox     94
Jim Edmonds      93
Jim Piersall     93
George Gore      91
Jimmy McAleer    91

Edmonds’ problem is that on the traditional merits, his Hall case is a very mixed bag. The biggest problem he faces at the moment is that he has “just” 1881 career hits, and as noted in the Bobby Grich comment last week, the BBWAA hasn’t elected a player from the expansion era (1961 onward) who compiled less than 2000 hits. Furthermore, like Grich and other qualified candidates such as Tim Raines and Ron Santo, who have been underserved by the electorate, Edmonds derived a great deal of his value from his high walk rate; he drew unintentional passes in 11.5 percent of his plate appearances, and topped 90 four times. His 382 homers are tied with Jim Rice and Frank Howard for 56th on the all-time list, sandwiched alongside two other recent early retirees, Larry Walker and Albert Belle. That’s not enough to be a plus.

Edmonds does get a boost from his post-season performances. He made trips with six Cardinals squads (two pennants, one world championship) as well as the Cubs, and hit well (.274/.361/.513, a good match for his career triple-slashes of .284/.377/.528). Of his 13 post-season homers, 10 came in his first seven series, with at least one in each; His 12th-inning walkoff homer off Dan Miceli in Game Six of the 2004 NLCS forced a Game Seven, which the Cardinals won, thus advancing to meet the Red Sox. Edmonds had a lousy World Series, though, going 1-for-15 as the Cards were swept.

Edmonds finished in the top five in MVP voting in 2000 and 2004, but never won the award. Despite winning Gold Gloves for two pennant winners, he scores below average on the Hall of Fame Standards and Hall of Fame Monitor measures, and never led the league in anything (the Black Ink test). Such numbers suggest he’s not likely to get much traction in the Hall of Fame voting, and it’s difficult to see how his return could change that. Having averaged just 85 hits over his final two seasons, he’d need two more years to get to 2000 (and to 400 homers) particularly if he takes on a platoon role, which he’s reportedly willing to do.

The guy proved he could still play during his final season, and if he still has the ability to do the job at a high enough level after laying off a year, why not make a comeback? At the very least I’d bet my nickel he outhits former Angels teammates Garret Anderson and Darin Erstad. Maybe even Troy Glaus, who’s younger but with an even spottier health history. Of course, any veteran on such a comeback trail is probably one hamstring, back or shoulder strain away from packing it in during a spring comeback, but I hope we get to see whether Edmonds has anything left.

Thank you for reading

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Jay, do articles like this mean that you'll be doing at least some of the "Prospectus Today"-type articles Joe used to do? If so, this is a great start.
Thank you for the kind words. Tackling current events in a big-picture sense has always been part of my arsenal, dating back to the work at my Futility Infielder blog which paved my way to BP.

Joe's left some very big shoes for all of us to fill. I think the vision here is that I'll be expanding into a fair bit more of these type articles, but I doubt I'll be alone in that regard, or that it will be the only angle from which I approach things. I'm also relishing the possibility of returning to my blogging roots to offer some quicker takes once we broaden our approach on that front.
That's good to hear. As much as getting 5 articles about niche topics (pitchers who both start and relieve, free agency years 1-3, etc.) is interesting, I love the bigger picture articles.
I'm really excited by some of the fresh talent we've brought in over the past several months. It's important to remember that the intellectual curiosity which produces what some may see as niche topics winds up yielding interesting and useful tools that can be employed to enhance all of our understanding of the game. Just to throw out a few examples, Matt Swartz's work to revise MORP is something that we're going to get a lot of mileage about as we discuss contracts in general, for example, and the same thing may go for Shawn Hoffman's work on marginal wins, or Eric Seidman's work on the Pitch/FX footprints of starter/relievers.
Thanks for featuring O-Dog. My sense is that he is generally underappreciated in the media.
How can you not mention the steroid possibility when talking about Edmonds???
Because I have zero interest in indulging in idle speculation or innuendo on that topic from the triple question mark set. It's a thorny enough issue when it comes to players about whom we actually DO know something.

Based upon what we know, Edmonds never tested positive, wasn't in the Mitchell Report, or on the BALCO list, or the Supposedly Anonymous list, or any of the other investigations (the HGH pharmacies, Op. Equine, etc.) which have surfaced over the past two decades. That doesn't guarantee he was clean, but I see no reason to approach his case with the presumption that he wasn't.
"That doesn't guarantee he was clean...."
I may be a minority of one on this issue, but I want to point out that in my view our use of the language prejudices all discussion of the issue of PEDs in favor of those who decry them and gives aid and comfort, therefore, to those I consider the enemies of reason.

I do not consider that those who used steroids or any PEDs were doing anything wrong or "unclean" or have to admit to anything, atone for anything or feel guilty about anything. At most I might accept that what they did was a misdemeanor, akin to not feeding a parking meter.

But even those who wish to stop the witch hunt use the language of the inquisitors: clean vs. unclean, cheaters, guilty, and similar terms. It is asking the Salem victims to fess up to being witches because they wished harm on someone whose cow got sick or the conversos to recant because they hid a Hebrew text in their home. It is asking us to accept the guilt of the Stalin purge victims because they confessed to crimes against the state. Maybe the times demanded it, but it did not make it legitimate, even if the accused themselves accepted the judgment of their peers and were genuinely contrite.
Great stuff, I also hope to see Edmonds in some type of platoon in 2010. ODawg looks to have misread the market again. Dodger fans will often wonder what happened in 2009. They aren't so enamored with Belliard that they brought him back either but instead went with the powerless Carroll.
The Dodgers are hoping that Blake DeWitt can take over at second, with Carroll as an insurance measure, potential platoon partner, and multipositional backup.
When thinking about Jim Edmonds, one doesn't get that "HOF" type feel to him. Maybe we're all a bit jaded, but compared to a guy like Griffey, or A-Rod, or Ivan Rodriguez, he just doesn't seem to exude that quality.

Maybe its that he never led the league in anything, or that he didn't fare that well in triple crown stats, or that he didn't usually play as many as 150 games a season.

Also, I lost track of him when he went to the Cardinals, I didn't realize how he did ther.

As far as his HOF chances, in this high offense area, he's got some long odds, as there are some more high profile guys ahead of him, like Griffey, Andruw Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Alex and Ivan Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and others.

He seems like the definition of a Veterans committee type, the guy who was underappreciated in his day, and by the writers in general
Edmonds did just fine in Triple Crown stats during the first part of his Cardinals career. From 2000-2004, he averaged .298 with 36 homers per year (tied for 10th in that time frame) and 100 RBI. In 147 games per year. Granted, that's more or less when offense peaked during the past era, so it was a bit tougher to get noticed.

He's certainly better than most VC elects, and that route might one day be possible, though the current VC no longer appears to be in the business of actually voting worthy candidates in.
Edmonds is probably in the Todd Helton boat when it comes to steroids. Both players have squeaky clean images, yet when you look at their career stats, something just doesn't add up. I'm amazed no one fingers Helton when he went from 40 homers a year to 15 overnight. I mean it's almost laughable it's so obvious.
Helton has severe back problems and one year had a horrific stomach ache. Hard to hit for power with weak core. Then, throw in the humidor and there's a strong possibility for a non-steroid explanation.
True...but even once he got relatively healthy in the last two years, there's been his excellent hitting skills coupled with little power. It's pure speculation of course, but I'd bet there was some vitamin S poured in his Wheaties back in the day.
He's also 36 years old ... gee, don't you think that might have something to do with it?
Jay, one thing you didn't mention with respect to Wolf is that the Brewers 1st round draft choice is protected (barely, since they're #14). So all they'd be losing is a mid-2nd round choice, no better than #65 overall. While that still has value, it's just not something that's likely to get in the way when you're contemplating a $30 million investment as Milwaukee was.

For that matter, whether Wolf would "be off the market" by now, as your commenter wondered, is irrelevent - all that matters is whether Wolf would have accepted, and that seems a certainty given that he's the best lefty starter on the market coming off a career year (what, he's going to take arbitration and re-enter the market coming off what is almost certain to be a lesser year?). The moment he declines arbitration, LA is off the hook, and eventually someone is going to sign Wolf and LA gets picks. Utter freebie.
Wow, that the pick is protected is a point I hadn't even realized.
Hey man! Your stealing my ideas! I'm honored you'd pursue my comment even if I'm proved half wrong.

On this point tho, I think the Dodgers would have received a 1st supplemental and the Brewers 2nd. And I hadn't either thought about a top 15 being willing to sign Wolf. I like to think that the Dodgers weren't on 'operation wallet shut' and instead thought about Wolf's elbow and said no to multiple years.

But I also believe that they shut Hudson out after he didn't take his banishment lying down. Which was kind of a dumb idea since they haven't replaced him in a substantive manner.
Is there a breakeven point for when a one-year free agent is worth the draft pick lost? For example, assume the average 1st round prospect generates some amount of WARP in their career and costs some slot amount in signing bonus. Is there some kind of way to calculate how good a free agent's projection would have to be at a certain cost to make one year of that free agent worth more than the pick?
Oh, there definitely has to be some breakeven point. To use outdated numbers, suppose we're indeed talking about $9 million for the future value of a first-round pick [or perhaps more accurately, the first-round pick in question]. And suppose we're pricing the free agent market value of a win at $3 million.

If we've signed this Type A free agent whom we'll call Orlando to a $9 million deal and thus lost our first-round pick, it seems to me he's got to produce 6 wins worth of value to break even: 3 wins to justify the current salary and another 3 to justify the loss of the pick.

Now suppose we know that can do a better job of pinpointing the value of a later first-round pick (such as the Dodgers') at only $4.5 million. They can sign Orlando to a $4.5 million deal knowing that he's only got to be worth 3 wins to justify that; the rest is gravy.

It's a simplistic model, sure, but I'd expect that some of the sharp guys we've brought on board can refine it given time.
"The Mets come to mind, and in a world where they also sign Bay, Wolf would have only cost them a second-round pick."


The Mets pick is protected, correct? If so, then Wolf would only cost them a third-round pick.