(The following is being syndicated from The Captain’s Blog.)

During the entire off season, the Yankees have been stymied in their attempt to add a starting pitcher. First, Cliff Lee eschewed their hefty contract offer because of the apparent belief that it’s always sunny in Philadelphia, and then Zack Greinke and Matt Garza were both traded to the friendly confines of the NL Central. Making matters worse, Andy Pettitte has spent most of the winter on a beach in Hawaii instead of his gym back in Texas, leaving Brian Cashman with little alternative than to patiently bide his time. Well, it’s time for him to make a master stroke.

Aside from hoping that Pettitte has a change of heart, the Yankees seem destined to enter the season with a compromised rotation. Without any viable starting pitchers to pursue at this point, the idea of locking down the late innings by adding Rafael Soriano to the backend of the bullpen has surfaced. The only problem with that option, however, is Soriano’s status as a Type-A free agent. So, if the Yankees decided to sign the former Rays’ closer to pitch in middle relief, it would not only cost a pretty penny, but also a first round draft selection (which, to make matters worse, would be forfeited to a division rival).

Despite all the rumors of the Yankees’ interest in Soriano, Cashman has been emphatic to the contrary. In fact, he couldn’t have been more explicit on the topic. “I will not lose our number one draft pick,” Cashman was quoted as saying by the LoHud Yankees Blog. “I would have for Cliff Lee. I won’t lose our number one draft pick for anyone else.”

But, what if the Yankees didn’t have to give up their first round pick to get Soriano? The reporters at LoHud asked Cashman about the possibility of such a “sign and trade”, but he seemed to dismiss it as a “legal maneuver” that was both difficult and rare. Desperate times call for desperate measures, however, so if such an arrangement is possible, the Yankees should keep exploring every option.

For those unfamiliar with baseball’s free agency compensation rules, here’s how it basically works (for a more detailed explanation, click here). At the end of the season, prospective free agents are rated and classified as either Type-A or Type-B. Soriano was labeled a Type-A free agent, so a team that signs him would have to give the Rays their first round pick. However, if that team finished in the bottom half of the standings (ranked 16-30), their first round pick would be protected, meaning they would only have to yield a second round selection (or a third rounder if that same team already signed a higher rated free agent).

As this report confirms, sign-and-trade deals are permissible, but only with the prior written consent of the free agent involved. Normally, a recently signed free agent can not be traded until June 15, but a player can waive that requirement of the Basic Agreement. As a result, if the Yankees were to be involved in such a deal, they would not only have to negotiate with another team, but Soriano as well.

In order for the hypothetical sign-and-trade to work, the Yankees would first have to agree to terms with Soriano and then convince another team to sign him on their behalf. Then, they would also have to compensate that team for both facilitating the signing and surrendering their draft selection in the process. Theoretically, any club could serve as the surrogate, but the cost of compensating a team that has to give up its first round pick could itself be prohibitive. Instead, the most likely scenario would involve a team that either has a protected first round pick or already surrendered it because of a prior free agent signing. Of course, the optimal candidate would be a team that qualifies on both accounts, and this year, the Washington Nationals just so happen to fit the bill.

Because of their poor placement in the standings, the Nationals hold the number six pick overall, which, as previously mentioned, is protected. For that reason, when the team signed Jayson Werth, it only had to yield a second round selection to the Phillies. Therefore, if the Yankees came to an agreement with the Nationals, the latter would only have to send a third round pick to the Rays as compensation for signing Soriano (Werth’s Elias rating of 91.807 is just a shade ahead of Soriano’s 91.799).

As things currently stand, the Nationals’ third round selection is 92nd overall (before the first and second rounds is a supplemental round that includes other free agent compensation picks). Although one can never assume the level of compensation that the Nationals would expect for surrendering this slot in the draft, the value would undoubtedly be significantly less than what the Yankees would otherwise have to give up in a straight free agent signing. Also worth keeping in mind is that the Nationals received another first pick as well as a supplemental pick (34th overall) because of Adam Dunn’s departure to the White Sox. Both of those selections are also protected, so Washington essentially has three first round picks. Considering the amount of money it will cost to sign all three of the selected players, the Nationals may actually be eager to give up their third rounder (and the signing bonus that comes with it) in exchange for a cost-controlled minor leaguer.

One other advantage to this sign-and-trade arrangement would be the Rays would not get a first round pick for Soriano. In fact, they wouldn’t even get a second rounder. Forcing a chief rival to pick as many as 70 slots lower in the draft is not an insignificant consideration. Along those lines, the Yankees could also turn to the Rangers or Tigers if the Nationals prove too unreasonable. Although both of those team still have their second rounders, each has already surrendered its first pick to the Red Sox because of the Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez signings. Because Soriano rates higher than Beltre and Martinez, the Red Sox would have to settle for a second rounder if either the Tigers or Rangers signed the reliever on behalf of the Yankees. Undoubtedly, such an arrangement would cost the Yankees much more than a deal with the Nationals, but it would have the added benefit of lowering the value of the Red Sox’ draft pick.

Most of the time, Brian Cashman has had the luxury of being the bully on the block. This offseason, however, he has been forced to be more of a chess master. To date, the events of the winter have kept the Yankees’ plans in check, so perhaps the time has come for a more creative endgame strategy? It’s Cashman move, but can he find someone else to play along?

11 Responses to “Can the Yankees Sign Soriano Without Surrendering A Draft Pick?”

  1. One other advantage to this sign-and-trade arrangement would be the Rays would not get a first round pick for Soriano. In fact, they wouldn’t even get a second rounder. Forcing a chief rival to pick as many as 70 slots lower in the draft is not an insignificant consideration.

    William, this is why the deal will never happen. In these types of deals, one team winds up getting screwed, and it’s usually the team expecting to get a 1st rounder in return. It’s safe to say the Rays factored in getting a pick when they signed Soriano to a 1 year deal last year, and as such would scream bloody murder to Selig and be 100% correct. Bud has to sign off on these deals, and there’s no way he lets a small market team get screwed like that and still maintain credibility around baseball.

    The best way to do this deal is directly with the Rays, where the Rays re-sign him and deal him to the Yanks for some compensation both sides can agree on. Given that it’s a 1st rounder, it would need to be a solid prospect going back in return, though not necessarily a top 10 talent. A good, MLB ready useful player should make happy. While I’m sure they prefer not to trade within the division, they’ve all but given up this year with the massive defections they’ve suffered, and if no one else steps up with an offer satisfactory to both the player and Rays, this could be their best option.
    -Yanks would have to give Soriano a 2-3 year deal (something he’s unlikely to get on the market)
    -Yanks would have to send a solid prospect to the Rays (JR Murphy/David Phelps/Corban Joseph)
    -Rays would have to sign off on the deal.

    Again, all parties have to be satisfied here. It’s doable, but still a long shot.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Bojo Reply:


    What grounds do you use to state that Selig would not sign off on a Nats deal (other than your own opinion)? Please cite references if any.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Steve S. Reply:

    When a similar situation arose a few years ago with Juan Cruz, Bud had the principals work out a sign and trade deal that everyone involved could live with.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    tbr Reply:

    I only know of once that Juan Cruz was a free agent, and there was no sign and trade involved. The Royals signed him and gave their second round pick to Arizona in 2009. Where is there a sign and trade involving Cruz?  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    William J. Reply:

    According to Robert Manfred in the article I linked, the only permission needed is from the player. The commissioner only has to approve deals involving the exchange of money, which wouldn’t be the case here. I guess he could invoke the “best interests” clause, but that’s an extreme measure that doesn’t seem warranted. I can easily see Boras disputing that action and winning.

    The Rays have little incentive to do a sign and trade because as things stand they’d likely get a first rounder anyway. Also, they’d lose the supplemental pick, so the compensation would have to make up for two lost picks. If the Yankees are willing to trade good prospect to the Rays, they might as well just forfeit the pick.

    The Yankees can definitely make such a deal…they would just need to find a willing partner and also get Soriano to agree.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Steve S. Reply:

    There’s nothing extreme about the best interests clause in this instance, what you’re proposing is an obvious circumvention of the draft pick compensation process. League approval on trades is there to prevent shenanigans like this, and I can’t imagine Bud signing off on something like this.

    Let’s reverse this. Let’s say Javier Vazquez was a Type A (which he was before last year) and the Marlins and Red Sox worked out a similar deal where the Yanks wound up with a lower pick than the one the Marlins would have given up otherwise. You don’t think the Yanks would have a problem with that? And what is the draft pick compensation system worth at that point, if teams can get together and screw their division rivals?  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    William J. Reply:

    What makes it extreme is sign-and-trade is legal. It doesn not violate the Basic Agreement. In this case, a player would be involved, so Selig can’t act in best interests without the chance of a grievance. It’s just an opinion, but I am pretty sure Boras would relish the chance to wipe the floor with Selig if he nullified a legal transactions.

    Also, the move doesn’t cirvumvent the the draft pick compensation process…it complies with it completely. It just shifts burden to another team.

    As for your example, it really doesn’t matter if the Yankees have a problem. The transaction is permissible. If baseball doesn’t want to allow it, it should state so in the next BA.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Brien Jackson Reply:

    But if you’re going to go that route, it just underscores that the current ranking system, where relievers are categorized seperatley, is completely broken.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  2. I think this is a great idea. Do I think it will be taken to heart by Cashman ??? I doubt it,,,,,but I REALLY like it !!!!

    Remember the Nats had been doing alot of deals with the Yanks for minor leaguers in the last couple years. The Brueny deal had a 1st year pick involved which the Yanks used on huffman,,,who never made the team.

    I mean there is blatant larcency all thru this one here,,,,and I would think that a general manager would not want to get involved in a deal like this because you’d alienate yourself with alot of other GM’s as being a guy who’d screw anyone at anytime.

    So Rizzo and CAsh would piss off Friedman for future deals,,,which Cash could care less,,,,but other GM’s who would sympathize with Friedman would black ball Cash. I personally believe alot of teams black ball Cash now already and hold him up for ransom whenever a player gets connected to the Yanks. Most teams wring out every last cent from the money machine called the Yankees.

    I like this idea,,,I think this should be sent to Boras’ office,,,there is 1 dude who could care less about pissing off anyone !!!!

    Peace  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

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