Arbitration Deadline is December 7

December is usually portrayed by gentle snowflakes, warm and cozy homes with Christmas decorations, Santa Clause talking to small, dazzled children and special gifts under the tree.

In the world of baseball, the part about special gifts is particularly true with some older, dazzle children in line to receive huge bags of cash.

Today is the deadline for teams to offer salary arbitration to their players who became free agents. The players have until Dec. 7 to accept or decline.

The process will start a second feeding frenzy when some of the top names on the market like Tom Glavine, Barry Bonds, Barry Zito, Dave Roberts, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Jason Schmidt, Gil Meche and Jeff Suppan will either be offered arbitration or not, but either way it will make them even richer than they already are.

In other years, free agents not offered arbitration couldn't sign with their previous teams before May 1 but under the new rules the two sides can continue negotiations and, if a player is re-signed, he would be eligible to play for the team on Opening Day.

Free agents offered arbitration and then signed by another team may still cost the signing team a draft choice but the Type A and B groups have been pared down and to the top 20 percent of A players and those losing a B free agent will receive an extra draft pick next June.

Of course, teams can offer arbitration to top free agents they believe will sign elsewhere to make sure they get that extra draft pick but since fewer players qualify for Type A and with fewer draft picks resulting, it will likely mean fewer arbitration offerings.

Players and owners will find out which players will bring draft picks, thus opening the free agent bidding for those who don't qualify by Dec. 12, the deadline to offer contracts -- rolls around.

Dodger free agents include C Einar Diaz, RHP Eric Gagne, OF Kenny Lofton, SS Julio Lugo, RHP Greg Maddux and RHP Aaron Sele. Of the list, Los Angeles interest seems to focus on Gagne and Maddux.

The Dodgers are expected to offer arbitration to two of them, Julio Lugo and Greg Maddux. They expect Lugo to reject it and sign a multiyear deal elsewhere, which would entitle the Dodgers to compensation. They would be pleased if Maddux accepts, because that would be for one year, not the two years he's seeking.

They are not expected to offer arbitration to Eric Gagne, Kenny Lofton, Aaron Sele or Einar Diaz.

After missing much of the past two seasons following three operations (two on his elbow and one on his back), he told Ken Gurnich of he is feeling "unbelievably good."

"I'm just focusing on getting healthy and getting back to the mound," Gagne said over the Thanksgiving weekend. "I'm focusing on that and nothing else. I'm anxious to know if I'll be in L.A. or not. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know their direction. A lot of the decision is up to the Dodgers. They've signed some good guys the past two years, and they're going in the right direction. But I don't know if I'm in their plans or not."

Obviously, the problem with perhaps the best closer in major league history over a three-year period (152 saves) is will he be able to return to his former, dominating self.

At one time, Gagne suggested he would be willingness to accept a hometown discount to return. But would his agent, Scott Boras, allow him to do that?

After paying him $19 million for 2005-06, during which he saved eight games, the club bought out his 2007 option for $1 million.

"I've never been in better shape," he said. "I'm excited to be able to pitch without pain. My arm feels better than it has in years. For the past two years, there were good days and bad days. In a perfect world, I'd be back in L.A. the next four or five years. But I've got to deal with what I've got to deal with. I've been hurt. That's the way it is."

As for Maddux, he became one of the Dodgers top pitchers down the stretch, recording an 5-3 record withh a 3.30 earned run average. He has indicated he would like to return to the Dodgers but hasn't been asked as of yet.

His Component Earned Run Average, estimating what a pitcher's actual ERA should have been based on raw pitching statistics, was a sparkling 2.61.

Some have been concerned about his age (41 in 2007) and the fact he was what they have called "a five-inning pitcher." However, over a dozen starts he was second only to Derek Lowe in innings per start (6.10 to Lowe's 6.32) and the club was 8-4 in his starts.

So you have a pair of Dodger pitchers, a potential super-stopper and a Hall of Fame starter, and the only question is, how much can you/should you pay for them?
40-Man Roster
  Pitchers           age   b/t  ht  wt
  97 Joe Beimel (30)       L/L 6-2 215 
  58 Chad Billingsley (22) R/R 6-0 245  
  43 Yhency Brazoban (27)  R/R 6-0 240  
  51 Jonathan Broxton (23) R/R 6-3 290  
  45 Elmer Dessens (36)    R/R 5-11 200  
  67 Jose Diaz (23)        R/R 6-4 300  
  -- Zachary Hammes (23)   R/R 6-6 225  
  47 Tim Hamulack (30)     R/L 6-2 220  
  30 Mark Hendrickson (33) L/L 6-9 230  
  27 D.J. Houlton (27)     R/R 6-3 220  
  -- Eric Hull (27)        R/R 5-11 185 
  56 Hong-Chih Kuo (25)    L/L 6-0 235  
  23 Derek Lowe (34)       R/R 6-6 230 
  -- Michael Megrew (23)   L/L 6-6 210  
  62 Greg Miller (22)      L/L 6-5 220  
  57 Franquelis Osoria(25) R/R 5-11 200  
  31 Brad Penny (29)       R/R 6-4 260  
  44 Takashi Saito (37)    L/R 6-2 200  
  50 Eric Stults (27)      L/L 6-0 215  
  35 Brett Tomko (34)      R/R 6-2 225  
  41 Randy Wolf (30)       L/L 6-0 205  

  Catchers          age   b/t  ht  wt        
  22 Toby Hall (31)       R/R 6-3  240  
  55 Russell Martin (24)  R/R 5-10 210  

  Infielders         age  b/t  ht  wt  
  15 Rafael Furcal (29)   S/R 5-8  195  
  5 Nomar Garciaparra(33) R/R 6-0  190  
  12 Jeff Kent (39)       R/R 6-1  210  
  66 Andy LaRoche (23)    R/R 6-1  215  
  29 James Loney  (23)    L/L 6-2  220  
  18 Ramon Martinez (34)  R/R 6-0  190  
  13 Oscar Robles (31)    L/R 5-10 185 
  8 Olmedo Saenz (36)     R/R 5-11 220  
  -- Wilson Valdez (32)   R/R 5-11 160  

  Outfielders        age  b/t  ht  wt 
  21 Marlon Anderson (33) L/R 5-11 200
  16 Andre Ethier (25)    L/L 6-1  210 
  27 Matt Kemp (22)       R/R 6-2  230  
  9 Juan Pierre (29)      L/L 6-0  180  
  17 Jason Repko (26)     R/R 5-10 190  
  28 Jayson Werth (28)    R/R 6-4  210  
  49 Delwyn Young (25)    S/R 5-8  210