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Arbitration decisions due tomorrow

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  November 22, 2010 12:23 PM

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Tomorrow is the deadline for teams to offer their own free agents salary arbitration. The Red Sox will have to make decisions about these players:

Adrian Beltre
Bill Hall
Felipe Lopez
Mike Lowell
Victor Martinez
Jason Varitek

The guess here is they will offer arbitration to Beltre, Lopez, and Martinez.

As Type A free agents, Beltre and Martinez would be worth two draft picks if they sign with another team: a pick from their new team and a second pick in the compensation phase of the first round. Lopez is a Type B free agent and would return one pick. The Sox acquired him in the final week of the season solely to get a draft pick in return.

Varitek is a Type B. If the Red Sox offer him arbitration, that means they want him back because Jason probably would accept it. He made $3 million last season and would get at least a modest raise in arbitration. For a backup catcher, that's a big contract. Pudge Rodriguez got two years and $6 million from the Nationals last winter.

These decisions take on greater significance this year because the 2011 draft is sure to be the last of its kind. As MLB and the MLB Players Association negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement to start in 2012, fixing the draft has become a priority.

In the NFL and NBA, the draft is fairly simple. The worst teams get the best choices and the players are paid based on where they are picked. Teams also have the freedom to trade picks.

In baseball, it's a mess. In theory the worst teams should pick the best amateur players. But there is no set salary scale, only a suggested one. Many top players set their value before the draft then slide down to teams willing to pay them.

Teams like the Red Sox, Tigers and Yankees have manipulated the draft in recent years to get better talent. For instance: The Sox signed high school shortstops Sean Coyle and Garin Cecchini to deals worth $1.3 million. Coyle went in the third round and Cecchini in the fourth.

There were seven players taken in the first round who signed for less. It makes little sense.

For international players, there is a corrupt free-for-all. Teams scout 16-year-olds from the Dominican Republic and other countries and pay extravagant bonuses for them. The players are often beholden to local trainers, who skim off a percentage. In some cases, team scouts take a cut.

Players often lie about their age and identity and some load up on PEDs to try and improve their value. Check out this story from the New York Times last week. Some willing players are basically treated like cattle by U.S.investors

Meanwhile, tying the free-agent compensation system to the draft has served to depress the market for some free agents. A Type A free agent could find fewer offers because teams are unwilling to part with their first-round pick.

By the time the new CBA is complete, there could be bonus slotting, an international draft and a new compensation formula.

But the 2011 draft will be manipulation-friendly and early word is the draft will be a deep one. So the Red Sox will try and amass as many picks as they can although not at the expense of losing a free agent they really want.

The Red Sox could end up with as many as seven picks in the first 50 or so. That process starts tomorrow.

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