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01/30/09 11:55 AM EST
Limit on free-agent signings is up
Teams can sign up to eight Type A, B players due to flooded market
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
Because of an exception granted, the Yankees -- or any other team -- can sign as many as eight Type A or Type B free agents this season, a top baseball official said on Friday.
Thus, if the Yankees were so inclined, they could still sign pitcher Ben Sheets or left fielder Manny Ramirez if there are millions more dollars remaining in the Steinbrenner bank.
Under rules stated in the Basic Agreement, an exception was made this offseason because of the high number of free agents on the market -- a combined 216 between six-year free agents filing before Nov. 14 and players who weren't tendered contracts on Dec. 12, said Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of labor relations and human resources.
Manfred corrected earlier speculation that no exception had been asked for or given this offseason.
"The facts are that an exception was given early in the free-agency season because of the high amount of free agents filing this year," Manfred said.
The Yankees have already signed five Type A free agents -- CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira and their own Andy Pettitte and Damaso Marte. The quota, as defined in the collectively bargained rules established by management and the Players Association, state, "if there are from 39 to 62 players [filing], no team can sign more than three."
Manfred negotiates these kinds of terms with the Major League Baseball Players Association. The current Basic Agreement, agreed upon after the 2006 season, doesn't expire until Dec. 31, 2011.
The agreement goes on to say that if there are "more than 62 such players, the club quota shall be increased accordingly."
In any event, after signing five free agents at a guaranteed total cost of $447.5 million spread out over the next eight years, it appears the Yankees are done spending this offseason and are no longer in the market.
Rules about compensatory Draft picks have led to some confusion this offseason.
Only Type A or Type B free agents who have turned down arbitration yield compensation picks. That means the Brewers, who offered Sabathia arbitration, wound up being compensated by the Yankees with their second-round pick in next June's First-Year Player Draft. The Padres, on the other hand, didn't receive a pick for all-time career saves leader Trevor Hoffman when he signed with the Brewers, because he wasn't offered arbitration.
The main reason a club might decline to offer arbitration is that it's more concerned with the amount of money an arbitrator might award to the player than preserving the possibility of a compensatory Draft pick.
This year, 24 of the 63 players in that group were offered arbitration. Two of the 24, Darren Oliver of the Angels and David Weathers of the Reds, accepted arbitration and returned to those clubs. Thus, 22 of 216 free agents this year, or about 10 percent, carry Draft-pick compensation if they are signed by another club.
With 11 Type A
and Type B free agents who were offered arbitration unsigned, the question arose regarding what might happen if one of them signed with a Major League club after the Draft, to be held in June.
The list of unsigned Type A players includes Ramirez, Oliver Perez, Jason Varitek, Orlando Cabrera, Juan Cruz, Orlando Hudson and Sheets. The Type B list includes Mark Grudzielanek, Paul Byrd, Dennys Reyes and Brian Shouse.
"It's always been our position that if [a player] goes past the Draft, the compensation goes away," Manfred said, adding that it has never happened.
Remaining list of overall unsigned Type A free agents: Bobby Abreu, Orlando Cabrera, Juan Cruz, Adam Dunn, Orlando Hudson, Mike Mussina (retired), Oliver Perez, Ben Sheets and Jason Varitek.