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Mediocre 2008 may pay off big


Mediocre 2008 may pay off big
Indians

If the Indians sign a type A free agent this winter, they will not lose their No. 1 draft pick as compensation. They can thank their otherwise disappointing 81-81 finish last season for that.

The teams with the 15 worst records from last season are guaranteed to keep their No. 1 pick in the June draft regardless of what free agents they sign. The Indians just made the cutoff in the 15th spot. The Washington Nationals will have two picks in the first 15 because they didn't sign their No. 1 pick from last season.

If the Indians did sign a type A free agent, they'd lose their No. 2 pick. The team that lost the player would also receive a compensation pick between the first and second rounds.

The free-agent compensation picture came into focus Monday when teams had to offer their free agents salary arbitration. It was an eye-opening experience for the Indians, who will head to the winter meetings Sunday in Las Vegas needing a closer and an infielder.

Type A closers Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Fuentes were offered arbitration by their old clubs, the Angels and Rockies, respectively. Rodriguez and Fuentes have until Sunday to accept the offers. If they do, they're bound to their old teams for at least one year.

Two other type A closers, Trevor Hoffman (Padres) and Kerry Wood (Cubs), were not offered arbitration by their former teams. It means a team will not lose any draft picks if they sign them.

The Indians have expressed interest in all four closers.

"The arbitration process helps to clarify things even more to determine what a player's value is," said General Manager Mark Shapiro.

The fact that the Indians will not lose their No. 1 pick could make them more aggressive in pursuing free agents.

"That's significant," said Shapiro of the Tribe's ability to keep its first-round pick.

He still values a second-round pick, but added: "There's a significant difference between a first- and second-round pick. A second-round pick is still a consideration, but draft picks don't decline on an even scale."

Other free agents not offered arbitration include Bobby Abreu, Andy Pettitte, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez, Brad Penny, Garret Anderson, Rafael Furcal, Edgar Renteria, Adam Dunn, Randy Johnson, Randy Wolf, Bob Howry and Pat Burrell. CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Manny Ramirez, Orlando Hudson, Ben Sheets, A.J. Burnett, Derek Lowe, Casey Blake, Orlando Cabrera and Paul Byrd were some of the free agents offered compensation.

The Indians are in negotiations with Blake to play third base. The Dodgers and Twins are interested as well. Blake, a type B free agent, would not cost the Indians anything in compensation. If they signed Blake, the Dodgers would receive a compensation pick, but it wouldn't be one of the Indians' picks.

It would be the same situation if the Indians tried to re-sign Byrd, another type B free agent. The Indians, however, aren't expected to address their need for starting pitching until later in the off-season.

Scott Elarton, Juan Rincon, Brendan Donnelly and Sal Fasano, the Indians' four free agents, were not offered arbitration. Elarton left the team early in the season for personal reasons. Rincon, Donnelly and Fasano all finished the season with the Tribe.

Before backing off from Hudson and Furcal, the Indians were talking with their agents about multiyear deals in the four- and five-year range for the infielders. It's unknown if they'd make the same commitment to a closer.

"It is safe to say that we value position players, starting pitchers and relief pitchers all differently," said Shapiro. "But more importantly, each individual player due to his age, medical history, workload has a different value and warrants different contract values to us."

As for answering one of their needs next week in Las Vegas, Shapiro said, "I don't have any expectations. We have the ability to do some things."

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: phoynes@plaind.com, 216-999-5158


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 4, 2008

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