Griffin: Jays offer arbitration to four of their own free agents
The Blue Jays, taking advantage of MLB's final opportunity for a draft-choice bonanza under the old compensation system for Type A and B free agents, saw GM Alex Anthopoulos, at midnight Wednesday, offer arbitration to four of their own ranked free agents, righthanded relief pitchers Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch; second baseman Kelly Johnson and catcher Jose Molina. The only Jays' 2011 free-agent not to be offered arbitration was veteran righthander Shawn Camp. Johnson had been ranked as a Type A, while the others, including Camp, were Type B under the old Elias system, that is being scrapped.
The clear winner moving forward among the Jays' group of five free agents, after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed, is Johnson. The 29-year-old veteran had done enough statistically to finish the season with Type A status using a strong Jays performance in the stretch-drive, after being acquired from the Diamondbacks in August.
Any team that had signed Johnson as a free agent, under the old rules, would have been forced to surrender its first or second round pick in the June '12 amateur draft. It would have surely acted as a deterrent for interested teams hesitant to negotiate for a player that does not really rank as one of the elite at his position. Under the new CBA rules, Johnson is more likely to receive a multi-year offer, given no draft choice penalty.
Johnson earned $5.85 million in 2011. If he now proceeds to sign with another team the Jays would still receive two supplemental picks, but they will fall between the first and second rounds. The signing team, meanwhile, will retain all of its own choices.
Was Johnson worried? On the season's final weekend in Chicago with the Jays facing the White Sox, he had expressed concern at his potential Type A status, jokingly suggesting that "maybe I should go hitless this weekend." Under the new CBA, it's problem solved. There is now little chance he will accept Jays' one-year arbitration, which does not preclude the Jays being interested in inking Johnson to a multi-year deal themselves.
Francisco earned $4.0 million in 2011. Jon Rauch, who finished the season on the disabled list, earned $3.75 million and when the Jays declined his option, he made another $250,000. Molina earned $1.0 million in his second season as the Jays' backup catcher.
But the most interesting situation surrounds Camp. The 36-year-old righthander earned $2.25 million in 2012 and would stand to receive an increase in arbitration. However coming off a down season, the groundball specialist is a solid, contributing professional still with some real value for the Jays. They may yet be interested in signing the veteran who would fit nicely into a rebuilt Toronto bullpen, but not at that salary. The Jays could likely begin any negotiations with Camp following the Rule 5 Draft on December 8.
If the Jays were to lose all four free agents offered arbitration this winter, combined with the compensation for last year's unsigned No. 1 pick Tyler Beede and with their own first and second round picks, they stand to be able to collect eight prospects in June 2012.
The Jays' current roster, after claiming catcher Brian Jeroloman off of waivers back from the Pirates who had claimed him from them earlier, currently stands at 39.