Arbitration decisions fuel Hot Stove
Holliday, Bay, Lackey among big free agents offered
The price for signing Matt Holliday, Jason Bay and John Lackey just went up.
The highest-profile free agents in the current market, as expected, were three of the 23 ranked free agents offered salary arbitration by their clubs prior to Tuesday night's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline.Forty-six other free agents rated Type A or Type B did not get the arbitration offer, meaning other teams can sign them away without paying their old teams compensation in the form of choices in June's First-Year Player Draft. Holliday, Bay and Lackey are three of the 22 Type A's in the free-agent pool, of whom a total of 10 were offered arbitration. Others included Billy Wagner, whose arbitration prospects were one of the variables discussed at the time of his Aug. 25 trade from the Mets to Boston, Chone Figgins, Marco Scutaro and relievers Jose Valverde, Rafael Betancourt, Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano. Among 13 of the 48 Type B free agents offered arbitration were versatile Mark DeRosa, iconic catcher Ivan Rodriguez, third baseman Adrian Beltre, and right-handed starters Carl Pavano and Joel Pineiro. Pitchers were by far the most treasured commodity, not surprisingly: eight of 22 ranked reliever were offered arbitration, as were five of 19 affected starters. In contrast, only four of 15 infielders and three of 11 outfielders received offers of arbitration. So did half of the six ranked catchers. Those moves still left plenty of prominent ranked free agents now unburdened of the compensatory price tag, including catcher Bengie Molina; infielders Miguel Tejada, Orlando Hudson, Nick Johnson, Placido Polanco; outfielders Garret Anderson, Mike Cameron, Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon; and starting pitchers Rich Harden, Jon Garland, Andy Pettitte and Randy Wolf. Tuesday's developments also act as the first accelerator for the offseason market: Teams which had tempered interest in certain ranked free agents waiting to learn their status, will now go into action mode for those not offered arbitration; signing any ranked free agent prior to this deadline would've automatically obligated the signing team to compensation. As such, it will be interesting to follow Gregg Zaun as a case study the next few days. Earlier Tuesday, the catcher indicated his signing with an unidentified team would be announced before the end of the week. Then the Rays offered the Type-B receiver arbitration, and the coming days will reveal whether that will influence the signing Zaun had portrayed as imminent in an interview with Canada's The Sports Network. The Los Angeles Dodgers declined arbitration offers to all seven of their ranked free agents, the largest unilateral action of the day, while the World Series champion Yankees also passed on all three affected free agents. Damon, fellow outfielder Xavier Nady and Pettitte were not made offers by the Yankees, who a year ago had similarly passed on all of their free agents, including Pettitte, who subsequently negotiated a new contract with the team. The Cardinals led the way by offering arbitration to three of their free agents -- Holliday, DeRosa and Pineiro -- while declining it to Troy Glaus. Eight other teams offered arbitration to two free agents each: Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, Angels, Braves and Rockies. A total of 69 free agents rated A or B -- excluding Type A shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who has a contract clause prohibiting an offer of arbitration -- were subject to the process. Only four teams were not part of Tuesday's whirlwind -- Cleveland and Washington, which do not have any ranked free agents, and the Pirates and the Reds, which have no free agents at all. The Dodgers declined offers to Type As Hudson and Wolf and a quintet of Type Bs -- pitchers Guillermo Mota, Will Ohman, Vicente Padilla and Garland, and infielder Ronnie Belliard. In addition to the Dodgers and the Yankees, no arbitration offers were made by 11 other clubs, including the Mets, who declined on all three of their eligible free agents, and Milwaukee. The Brewers were second-highest with five rejections, choosing to not offer arbitration to catcher Jason Kendall, outfielder Mike Cameron, infielder Felipe Lopez and pitchers Braden Looper and Dave Weathers -- all Type B's. Earlier in the day, prior to the evening rush to beat the deadline, Scutaro and catcher Rod Barajas were offered arbitration by the Blue Jays. The Rockies made the offer to starting pitcher Jason Marquis and reliever Rafael Betancourt, while declining to offer arbitration to catcher Yorvit Torrealba and left-handed reliever Joe Beimel. Detroit offered arbitration to relievers Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney, but not to ranked second baseman Placido Polanco and to three others -- left-hander Jarrod Washburn and infielders Adam Everett and Aubrey Huff. The decision to offer arbitration to ranked free agents impacts clubs' opportunity to receive compensation for players signed away by other clubs. The arbitration scenario doesn't involve other free agents -- a total of 96 unranked remain on the market -- since they are still free to negotiate with their old clubs, who wouldn't gain anything by exploring binding arbitration. Very few who receive the arbitration offer will accept them, since such a move locks them into their 2009 team, removing them from the open market. However, accepting could be to the advantage of players who feel pessimistic about being able to land multi-year contracts, since salaries through arbitration are generally higher than through negotiation. Teams losing Type A free agents receive a first-round pick if the signing team's Draft order is 16th or lower, as well as a so-called sandwich selection the first and second rounds. If the signing team has a pick in the first 15 slots, the losing team gets its second-round selection along with the sandwich pick. Compensation for losing Type B free agents is a supplemental pick between the first two rounds.