D-Backs Lose Free Agents, Gain Draft Picks

As anticipated, none of the seven eligible Arizona Diamondbacks free agents chose to sign during the exclusive rights period, instead filing for free agency. While many fans lament the lost talent, these circumstances actually favor the Snakes, who will receive a bonanza of compensatory draft picks in June.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have seen three Type A free agents, two Type B free agents, and two other free agents file for free agency.  Should the Diamondbacks offer these players salary arbitration by the December 1 deadline and the players choose instead to sign with another team, the Type A's would return two draft picks as compensation, the Type B's would return one, and no compensation would be offered for the unclassified free agents.

Juan Cruz, Orlando Hudson, and Adam Dunn comprise the ex-Diamondback Type A free agents.  If any of these players declines arbitration and signs with a team who has a draft slot between 16th overall and 30th overall in the first round, the Diamondbacks will receive that team's first round pick and an additional sandwich pick between the first and second rounds.  If the signing team has a pick between first overall and 15th, those picks are protected.  The Diamondbacks would instead receive those teams' second-round picks, along with the supplemental pick.

The D-backs can offer arbitration to these players with confidence.  If Dunn or Hudson accepted arbitration, it would devastate the team's tight budget for 2009.  Both players are likely to draw heavy interest from other teams, however, and will command multi-year deals in eight figures per year.  They are not going to accept an offer of arbitration.  Juan Cruz made less than $2 million in 2008, so even if he did accept arbitration, the Diamondbacks would still likely get him at an affordable price.

Brandon Lyon and Randy Johnson are Type B free agents.  The D-backs receive only a sandwich pick if either of these players is offered arbitration but chooses to sign with another team.  Like Cruz, Lyon would not break the bank if he chose to accept the Diamondbacks' arbitration offer, having made just over $3 million last year.  His 26 saves in 2008 would drive up the arbitration price somewhat, but other teams are already showing considerable interest in Lyon, making an offer of arbitration reasonably safe. 

The Big Unit is another matter.  He would command more than the $8 million his agent reportedly asked for in negotiations if he entered an arbitration hearing.  There is also a fair chance that no other team would be willing to make that much of a financial commitment to a 45-year old pitcher with a recent history of back trouble.   The Diamondbacks would do well to avoid extending an offer of arbitration to Johnson.

So in addition to the two draft picks the Diamondbacks would normally have in the first two rounds, they should also receive two more for Cruz, two for Hudson, two for Dunn, and one for Lyon.  That's nine draft picks among the first 80 slots or so, possibly 10 if the club rolls the dice with Johnson and he still signs elsewhere.  Those 9-10 draft picks would go a long way towards replenishing a minor league farm system that has been depleted by trades and promotions to the majors.   

In baseball, while one hand taketh away, the other giveth.  in the Diamondbacks' case, one hand could be giving them the key to sustaining their recent success long-term. 

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