Lohse, Soriano, Bourn, LaRoche – Draft Pick Compensation Collateral Damage?

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Lohse was 16-3 with a 2.86 earned run average and a WHIP of 1.09 in 2012

Kyle Lohse is the best free-agent starting pitcher still on the market. Rafael Soriano is the best free agent closer still on the market.

Michael Bourn and Adam LaRoche joins them as the best position players left on the market, and all four have something in common that has become a hindrance to them striking free agency gold this off-season.

That is, draft pick compensation.

Lohse , Soriano, Bourn and LaRoche each turned  down qualifying offers from their respective teams, which means each  would cost a team its highest draft pick in June,  unless that pick is a top 10 pick,  which would be protected.

Draft pick compensation is not new, but there is an attachment to the system this year that may be limiting the marketability of some free agents.

Any team that signs Lohse, Soriano, Bourn, or LaRoche will also have the projected draft bonus amount of the pick it loses reduced from its cap figure for the next draft, thereby limiting a team’s flexibility in attempting to sign its draft choices.

Most teams have become very protective of their picks and more importantly the dollar value assigned to those picks, especially when it comes to signing free agents that many clubs don’t consider difference makers.

Lohse

Lohse was 16-3 with a 2.86 earned run average and a WHIP of 1.09 in 2012.

He walked just 38 in 211 innings, but he is 34 years old.

The result is very little interest in Lohse to this point.

“Obviously, it’s been a little slow, a little slower than anticipated,” Lohse said of the market for his services. “I think the whole first-round draft pick thing is slowing things down. It’s going to eventually work itself out — it’s not like I’m not going to be out of baseball. Something will happen here down the road.”

Soriano

The New York Yankees won 95 games in 2012. After losing Mariano Rivera to injury, Soriano saved 42 of those games.

Soriano is 33 years old and said to be looking for multiyear deal.

Unless a team like Detroit steps up, that doesn’t appear likely.

Bourn

Bourn is 30 years old and hit .274/.348/.391 last year with nine homers, 57 RBI and 42 steals in 2012.

Bourn was among this offseason’s top 50 free agents.

Texas is said to have some interest but the market for Bourn’s services may have become oversold.

LaRoche

LaRoche hit 33 home runs in 2012 and once more than a two-year deal.

Boston won’t give it to him because it would mean forfeiting the draft pick.

Washington wants to give him two years and he wants three.

LaRoche is 33 years old.

All four players will be signed

They are all capable productive players.

Coincidentally Lohse, Soriano, Bourn all retain Scott Boras as their agent, who historically isn’t shy about the asking price for the players he represents.

Unfortunately, the new system has seemingly changed the way free agents and the cost of associated draft picks are valued.

The system was was implemented to reduce the number of free agents tied to compensation, and may be in need of a revision, but that will have to wait.

Lohse, Soriano, Bourn, and LaRoche may be on the wrong end of the benefits with the system.

Sign-and-trades would enable free agents to sign with clubs willing to lose a draft choice, then get traded to teams that are not.

Players would sign on for that, but management?

“I’m not inclined to get into a discussion about changing an agreement when it hasn’t even operated for a full year.” said Rob Manfred, MLB’s Executive Vice President of Labor Relations.

With a little more than a month before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the situation may well work itself out, but if Lohse, Soriano, Bourn, and LaRoche end up signing deals for less than their presumed value, changes may be in the offing.