Front Office 101: "Offseason for Dummies"

The Major League Baseball offseason will technically begin this week. I've noticed in my colleagues' blogs on MASNsports.com, there are a lot of technical questions about free agency, compensation, arbitration, etc.

You baseball die-hards probably already have the process memorized, but for those of you that don't spend your Saturday nights browsing the Elias Sports Bureau Web site, here is your "Offseason for Dummies" guide.

Many of you have asked how signing Type A or B free agents will affect the Orioles' draft in 2012. To put it simply, the Orioles No. 4 overall pick in 2012 is protected - no matter what - regardless of free agent signings. Picks Nos. 1-15 are etched in stone and can't be taken by another team as compensation for a free agent who declined arbitration.

Other picks are free game. For example, if the Orioles were to sign Type A free agent Prince Fielder after he declined arbitration with the Brewers, the O's would owe the Brewers their second-round pick in 2012. The Brewers would also get a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds that does not come from the Orioles.

If the Orioles sign a Type B free agent who declined arbitration, they do not owe the player's former team any draft picks. The former team will receive a supplemental pick that does not come from the Orioles.

Compensation draft picks are not given for players who were neither Type A nor Type B, as well as for players who were not offered arbitration by their 2011 clubs.

Now don't get excited, O's fans, but if the Orioles were to sign two Type A free agents who declined arbitration, They would give their second- and third-round draft picks to the players' former teams. The former team of the player with the higher Elias Sports Bureau ranking would receive the higher draft pick as compensation. For example, if the O's sign Prince Fielder and C.J. Wilson, the Brewers would get the O's second-round pick and the Rangers would get the O's third-round pick because Fielder's ranking is 91.2 and Wilson's is 90.988.

If you're wondering how the Elias Sports Bureau comes up with these player rankings, it's a fairly confusing process.

The Elias Sports Bureau categorizes all players at the end of each season into five groups based on position. Then they come up with scores for each player in that group based on an evaluation of specific statistics. Players are then ranked based on those scores. Free agents in the top 20 percent of their group are labeled Type A. Type B status goes to players ranking in the 21-to-40-percent range. The rest receive no label.

Here's a great article that breaks down the ranking process.

As for deadlines, this all means the Orioles will need to hire a GM sooner rather than later. Five days after the World Series ends this week, teams can begin offering their free agents arbitration. That's when the whole free agent process truly begins.

By midnight Nov. 23, we'll know which free agents were offered arbitration by their 2011 team.

By Dec. 7, we will know which ones accepted. Those players that do are no longer free agents and the process of negotiating a salary for a one-year deal begins. If both sides can't agree before going to arbitration, then each party will submit a salary number and a third-party arbitrator will pick one figure.

Historically, a low percentage of free agents accept arbitration from the team for which they played the previous year. Most will test free agency hoping to do better than a one-year deal.

If a free agent is offered arbitration and declines, then signs with a new team, that's when the process of compensating his old team with draft picks begins.

To all the aspiring GMs out there, I hope this helps. Good luck in your rise to the front office!