Free agents not as costly under new deal

BY Ken Rosenthal • November 19, 2011

Baseball’s new labor deal will create an immediate impact on the free-agent market.

A team will not forfeit a high draft pick for signing one of the remaining free-agent relievers, according to a source with knowledge of the agreement.

Certain position players who are Type A free agents also will be freed from draft-pick compensation, but the top free agents — Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes, plus Jimmy Rollins, David Ortiz and others — will still carry the additional price of a pick.

Teams that lose a player from the new group of unrestricted Type A free agents still will receive compensation picks, as they have previously. The San Diego Padres, for example, will not be penalized for declining to trade closer Heath Bell last season; they still will collect picks for losing him as a free agent.

A different set of rules will take effect next offseason and for the remainder of the new agreement. The Elias rankings of free agents, which previously determined the value of draft-pick compensation, will be eliminated.

Teams can still receive direct compensation for select free agents by giving such players a one-year, qualifying offer for a predetermined amount. That amount will be more than $12 million in the first year of the agreement, then will rise in subsequent years.

A club that signs such a player will forfeit a top pick, but, as in the past, a team that finishes in the bottom 15 of the overall standings cannot lose its first-round selection.

Twenty Type A free agents remain this offseason. Of those, eight are relievers — Ryan Madson, Heath Bell, Matt Capps, Darren Oliver, Francisco Rodriguez, Octavio Dotel, Takashi Saito and Francisco Cordero.

Saito already was unrestricted; his contract prohibited the Brewers from offering him salary arbitration and receiving draft-pick compensation. The other relievers will now benefit from enhanced markets, as well.

Other Type A free agents, including catcher Ramon Hernandez and second baseman Kelly Johnson, also could benefit from the one-year adjustment in the rules, though the other names on the list are not yet known.

The Phillies, who signed reliever Jonathan Papelbon, a Type A free agent, before the completion of the new labor deal, will forfeit their first-round pick to the Red Sox, as they would have previously.

However, the Phillies still stand to gain top picks if they lose two of their own Type A free agents, Madson and Rollins.

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