John Milton and an arbitration primer

Will Jayson Werth stay with the Phillies or run off to another team? (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)

"Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties."

Tomorrow marks the 466th anniversary of the publishing of Areopagitica, John Milton's landmark pamphlet championing the right to freedom of speech and expression. What you are about to read is probably not on that level of historical significance, but Milton would certainly be thrilled to know that his spirited campaign paved the way for you and me to sit inside on a brilliant late-autumn afternoon and dissect Jayson Werth's arbitration status on a blog called High Cheese.

Because tomorrow also happens to be the day when the Phillies must offer arbitration to Werth, thereby securing their right to receive draft-pick compensation if - or, perhaps more accurately, when - he signs with another major league team.

The Phillies don't really have any deciding to do on the topic. They will offer Werth arbitration, Werth will seriously consider accepting it for approximately zero seconds, and everything will proceed without so much as a blink.

The only other player the Phillies could offer arbitration to is reliever Chad Durbin, a Type B free agent, although they aren't likely to do so.

So back to Werth, and what it all means.

The important things to know:

1) At the end of the season, an organization called the Elias Sports Bureau ranks every player in the major leagues based on a complex formula that measures various statistics over a two-year period. The top 20 percent of players in each of five groupings -- Starting pitchers, Relief pitchers, catchers, 1B/OF, and 2B/SS/3B -- are "Type A" players. The next 20 percent (21-40 percent) are "Type B" players.

2) Werth is a Type A player. In fact, he is the highest-rated free agent this year, according to a copy of the Elias Rankings obtained by the Daily News. Werth's rating is 91.807, which puts him just ahead of Rays reliever Rafael Soriano's 91.799 and Derek Jeter's 91.304. That distinction could prove important to the Phillies down the line. Why? Stay tuned. . .

3) Teams who lose Type A and Type B free agents are eligible to receive draft pick compensation. In order to exercise that right, they must first offer arbitration to said free agent, which gives the player the option of accepting a one-year deal at a salary decided by a panel of arbitrators.  In a lot of cases, a club won't offer arbitration because they don't want to risk the player accepting. The Phillies did this with Pat Burrell back in 2008, since they could have been stuck with a huge salary for the left fielder if he accepted. In Werth's situation, this obviously isn't a concern. The Phils would be thrilled if he ended up accepting. But that isn't going to happen.

4) So once Werth declines -- he has until the end of the day on Nov. 30 to do so -- the Phillies will be eligible to receive compensation if he signs elsewhere. The compensation for a "Type A" player who signs elsewhere as a free agent is two draft picks. One pick is in the supplemental round, which falls between the first and second round. The other pick is the highest unprotected selection of the team that signs the Type A free agent.

5) What does "unprotected" mean?  This is where things start to get complicated, so pay attention: 

5A) The top 15 picks in the first round of the draft are protected. Because of compensation picks for the Diamondbacks, Padres and Brewers in this year's first round, the top 18 picks are actually protected. If a team with a protected first round pick signed Werth, the Phillies would receive that team's second-round pick.

The vast majority of teams with protected picks are unlikely to be in the market for Werth (ex: Pirates, Diamondbacks, Royals, Nationals, Indians, Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Mets, Marlins, Dodgers). The notable exception could be the Angels, who at No. 17 are believed to be in the market for a top-dollar outfielder (Carl Crawford is their primary target, according to the informed speculation of the national media).

Teams with unprotected picks: Tigers (19), Rockies (20), Blue Jays (21), Cardinals (22), White Sox (23), Red Sox (24), Padres (25), Rangers (26), Reds (27), Braves (28), Giants (29), Twins (30), Yankees (31), Rays (32), Phillies (33). Potential suitors for Werth include the Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox and Tigers.

5B) Even if a team loses a Type A free agent to a team with an unprotected pick, they aren't guaranteed to receive a first-round pick. Why not? If a team signs more than one Type A free agent, their draft picks are doled out in order of those free agents' Elias Rankings (think the Yankees in 2009, when they signed C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira).

So the fact that Werth is the top-rated free agent is good news for the Phillies.

6) So, long story short: The Phillies will offer Werth arbitration. Werth will decline. If he signs elsewhere, the Phillies are highly likely, although not guaranteed, to get a first round draft pick from the team that signs him. They'll also get a pick in between the first and second rounds.

Long live John Milton.


File this name away on your list of options for a right-handed hitting outfielder: Matt Diaz still looks unlikely to be offered a contract by the Braves, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution beat writer David O'Brien. He made $2.5 million last season and his arbitration eligible, but the Braves apparently will think hard about whether such a price tag is worth devoting to a player who hit .250/.302/.438 with seven home runs in 224 at-bats last season. The Braves don't exactly have an enviable outfield situation in 2011 -- They recently released Melky Cabrera, and Nate McLouth hit .190/.298/.322 last season -- and your first thought might be: if not there, then why here? Well, Diaz has killed lefties in his career, and he is used to part-time at-bats:

Diaz vs. LHP

2010: .273/.318/.512, 5 HR, 121 AB
2009: .412/.464/.640, 6 HR, 136 AB
2008: .319/.338/.417, 2 HR, 72 AB
2007: .356/.384/.580, 9 HR, 188 AB


Domonic Brown made his winter ball debut yesterday in the Dominican Republic, where he went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run in the first game of a doubleheader, then went 0-for-1 with a strikeout in the second game. He played right field. He's expected to play until right around Christmas.