Potential Winners, Losers as Arbitration Decisions Made
Lower-tier Type As face an agonizing choice when they are offered arbitration: Accept and go into 2010 with a one-year deal, likely at a time in their life when they are looking for long-term security, or decline and watch their stock drop on the open market as clubs shrink away because of the prospect of losing a first-round draft pick as compensation for signing him.
The teams face a similarly difficult decision-making process before offering arbitration to their free agents. If they miscalculate in one direction or another, they could wind up stuck with an expensive, superfluous player or miss out on a valuable draft pick.
Those decisions were finalized at midnight on Tuesday.
It's a fine line for players and teams alike, and while it's not immediately apparent who will benefit (or suffer) most from the arbitration decisions, we can hazard a guess at some potential winners and losers of the process.
Placido Polanco: The 34-year-old, two-time Gold Glover wasn't offered arbitration by the Tigers, a mild surprise that should make it much easier for him to find steady work in 2010. There are a number of appealing options at second base in this year's free-agent class, so the specter of losing a first-round draft pick to sign Polanco -- a solid, but unspectacular infielder -- likely would have scared off suitors who could have turned to guys like Ronnie Belliard or Felipe Lopez without fear of losing a pick.
Orlando Cabrera: The OC didn't sign until deep into spring training this year after he was tagged with the dreaded Type A label last winter. He and his agent were smarter this time around, stipulating that the A's not offer him arbitration this offseason when he signed last March 6. He was ranked an A again by Elias, but because of that stipulation he'll be one of the top shortstops available in a thin class with no strings attached.
Johnny Damon: He and agent Scott Boras can probably take a multi-year deal to the bank now.
Miguel Tejada: Another veteran with some upside who can expect more suitors without draft picks hanging over his head.
Randy Wolf: The left-hander is the mildest of winners. As one of the very best arms available period, he wouldn't have had trouble drumming up interest from a number of suitors, but that list figures to be a little longer now that draft-pick compensation is off the table.
Jermaine Dye: We knew this was coming a long time ago, but aging, defensively challenged sluggers need all the help they can get.
Bengie Molina: Another mild winner like Wolf, Molina stood to get a raise on the $6.5 million he made last year had he been offered (and accepted) arbitration, but he's no worse off without the offer because a multi-year deal is a possibility.
Orlando Hudson: Word is the O-Dawg wanted out of Los Angeles, so he wouldn't have accepted an offer anyway, but L.A. not extending one his way can only help him in a crowded second base market. Hudson didn't sign until Feb. 22 because he was a Type A who didn't accept arbitration from the Diamondbacks. It's unlikely he'll have to wait that long again to find his 2010 home.
Rafael Betancourt: Save guys with extensive closing experience, there wasn't one other Type-A reliever besides Betancourt who was offered arbitration. That will impact interest in the right-hander. Just ask Juan Cruz.
Marco Scutaro: Either way he's probably the top shortstop on the market, but since he's not as known of a quantity, Scutaro's value will suffer some because the team that signs him will have to give up picks.
Dodgers: There are two Los Angeles free agents in the section above, both of whom will be able to find work this winter. What's the worst that would happen if the Dodgers wound up "stuck" with Wolf and Hudson? They'd have a regular second baseman and a mid-rotation pitcher on short money. This might be the first instance of the McCourts' divorce trouble rearing its ugly head.