Which Free Agents Will Be Offered Arbitration?

For a team to receive draft pick compensation for a departing free agent, arbitration first must be offered to that player.  The risk is that the player will accept, and the team will be "stuck" with that player on a non-guaranteed contract for 2010.  Keep in mind that cutting a player who accepted arbitration must be done based on the player's "failure to exhibit sufficient skill or competitive ability" rather than the team's desire to save money.

Keep in mind also that, as Joe Pawlikowski of River Ave. Blues explained last year, "There are no rules for salary reduction for players with more than six years of service time."  For example, if Vladimir Guerrero accepts an arbitration offer from the Angels, the team could offer him $5MM for 2010 despite his $15MM salary in '09.  (The team still might lose at a hearing though, so the risk remains).

Let's break down the ranked free agents (Type A or B) based on whether their teams will offer arbitration.  Players whose options have been declined can be offered arbitration, but I've omitted those here (aside from Wagner).

Locks to be offered arb:  Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Randy Wolf

Likely to be offered arb: Bobby Abreu, Marlon Byrd, Marco Scutaro, Andy Pettitte, Carl Pavano, Fernando Rodney, Adam LaRoche, Joel Pineiro

Might be offered arb: Johnny Damon, Billy Wagner, Darren Oliver, Brandon Lyon, Bengie Molina, Nick Johnson, Orlando Hudson, Felipe Lopez, Mark DeRosa, Ronnie Belliard, Rich Harden, Jason Marquis, Mike Gonzalez, John Grabow, Scott Eyre, Kiko Calero

Needless to say, I feel that players not listed above are not likely to be offered arbitration.  That's a big list; it includes players such as Vladimir Guerrero, Hideki Matsui, Placido Polanco, Erik Bedard, Mike Cameron, Carlos Delgado, Miguel Tejada, Jose Valverde, and Rafael Soriano.

Of course, this is all just one person's opinion.  Let me know where you feel differently.  Last year, 24 free agents were offered arbitration, and I was surprised by at least eight who weren't (Adam Dunn, Kerry Wood, Abreu, and Wolf especially).

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