The most commonly held misconception of this offseason is that the Yankees could have signed pitcher Ben Sheets or could still sign left-fielder Manny Ramirez if only there were a few million dollars remaining in the Steinbrenner bank. Both assumptions are incorrect. According to the Basic Agreement, and confirmed by a top Major League Baseball official, once the Yankees signed CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira, they had signed their quota of Type A or Type B free agents under the collectively bargained rules established by management and the Players Association. All three were Type A free agents who played for other teams last season aside from the Yankees. The Yankees could re-sign their own Type A or Type B free agents without it affecting the quota.
Under the rules, "if there are from 39 to 62 [Type A and B] players [during a given offseason], no team can sign more than three." "Frankly, it's an unusual year to have that many ranked players," Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of labor relations, told MLB.com this week. Manfred negotiates these kinds of terms with the Major League Baseball Players Union. And the current Basic Agreement, signed after the 2007 season, doesn't expire until Dec. 31, 2011. But it gets more complicated. According to an unofficial list compiled by the Sports City Sports News Service, this year there were 63 Type A and Type B free agents -- 29 Type As and 34 of the Type B variety. A Type A player is one who's ranked among the top 20 percent of his group -- pitcher or position player. A Type B player is among the top 40 percent. The Elias Sports Bureau does the annual independent rankings. "If there are more than 62 such players, the club quota shall be increased accordingly," the Basic Agreement also says. "If there were more than 62 this year, we should have agreed on an increased quota," Manfred said. "We did not. I think if [the Yankees] were contemplating signing another Type A player, they would've read the agreement and asked us what we wanted to do. They would've said they wanted to sign a fourth player and we would've had to do something with the union." The Yankees didn't ask, Manfred said. They did sign another Type A player this week, pitcher Andy Pettitte. But Pettitte played for the Yankees in 2008. The same goes for Damaso Marte, a Type A reliever the Yanks re-signed early in the offseason. 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.
Rules about compensatory Draft picks led to some confusion, too.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 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 earn draft pick compensation if they are signed by another club, about 10 percent. With 10 Type A free agents still unsigned, the question arose regarding what might happen if one of them signed with a Major League club after the draft. 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 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.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.