Going Through the Motions

Javier Vazquez, Good Samaritan.

On Tuesday it was reported that Type B free agents Trevor Hoffman and Javier Vazquez were being offered arbitration by their respective teams, but that pursuant to “gentleman’s agreements” the players would not accept the offers.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find these arrangements a little odd.

Ken Rosenthal notes that teams often do this with Type B free agents. Remember that when a Type B free agent declines an arbitration offer and signs with a new team, the team losing the free agent gains a supplemental draft pick, but the new team doesn’t lose any picks (as would be the case for a Type A free agent). So taking the example of Vazquez, his market value isn’t reduced by the “declining arbitration” pantomime, and the Yankees get an extra draft pick from out of the ether. Everybody wins, right?

Well, sort of. This cooperative gaming of the system obviously benefits the Yanks. But where’s Vazquez’s incentive? Is he just doing a favor for a former employer? Rosenthal implies that another force may be at play: Vazquez’s agents, the Levinson brothers, potentially made this arrangement to build business goodwill with the Yankees’ front office.

My problem with that scenario is that the Levinson brothers don’t work for the Yankees, they work for Javier Vazquez, and they have certain duties to him as a result. To benefit themselves, Vazquez’s agents would be pushing him into a course of action that generates an asset for the Yankees — a team Vazquez is no longer employed by and will (theoretically) be competing with wherever he plays next — with no benefit to Vazquez himself. Note that this marginally hurts Vazquez’s next employer by benefiting the Yankees. If I were him, I’m not sure why I would do it.

The other possibility is that Vazquez is being compensated for his compliance. Maybe he gets a discount on the Levinson brothers’ services negotiating his next deal, or maybe the Yankees paid for this in advance.

Of course, the preceding is merely a thought experiment. I fully understand why teams and agents would work together to exploit the compensation rules, despite the fact that these rules were meant to compensate teams losing free agents they had a bona fide desire to keep. I just wonder why the players play along when on the face it looks like it’s not in their interest.

Maybe Javier Vazquez and Trevor Hoffman are just really, really nice guys.

We hoped you liked reading Going Through the Motions by Leo Martin!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

newest oldest most voted
Tarmo Squish Mitten
Tarmo Squish Mitten

You know what they say, “You can get strike three, with nicety!”