Arbitration Deadline Tuesday at 12:01 a.m

To offer, or not offer, that is the question Hamlet would have said had he been a general manager in 2008. The deadline for clubs to offer arbitration to their ranked free agents must be made before Monday at midnight.

Teams not yet able to re-sign their players in the four weeks since their players' declaration of free agency have the option of offering to join in arbitration with the player and thus abiding by the decision of a third party, or if the player declines, will get compensatory draft picks if he is designated a Type A or Type B.

Therefore, decisions made before to the deadline will shape the rest of the signing season for the 169 free agents remaining on the market.

Many Major League teams are waiting until that day passes to make other decisions.

Any ranked free agent who was signed before the deadline automatically obligates the signing team for compensation. Thus, clubs wait to see which free agents they are interested in will not be tendered, then they can start serious negotiations with those players.

The Dodgers have 14 free agents, more than any other club, and decisions on who to tender arbitration have been under discussion in the front office.

They will likely offer Manny Ramirez and Derek Lowe, the only two Type A free agents, arbitration. Thus they would receive two extra selections in the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. They would get the first round pick of the signing team, plus a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds.

However, if the team signing your player is in the bottom half of the draft, you get that team's second round pick plus the sandwich.

The Dodgers also would receive a sandwich pick for the loss of any of their five Type B free agents -- Joe Beimel, Casey Blake, Jeff Kent, Greg Maddux and Brad Penny -- if that player is offered and rejects arbitration. Blake, and possibly Beimel, are candidates to be offered arbitration because the club would prefer the player accepts a one-year commitment.

Rafael Furcal, Chan Ho Park, Nomar Garciaparra, Mark Sweeney, Jason Johnson, Gary Bennett and Pablo Ozuna are not either A or B rated and no compensation will be received if they are selected by another club.

The player has until Dec. 7 to accept the offer, in which case the player is considered signed to a one-year contract, with the salary to be determined through negotiations or the arbitration process. If he rejects the offer, he remains in the free-agent pool with the compensation picks in effect.

The Monday night deadline signals the real start of the free-agent season, as most clubs are reluctant to sign another team's free agent without knowing whether it would be required to forfeit Draft picks as compensation. Going into the Thanksgiving weekend, only one of 171 current free agents had changed clubs.

A year ago, 17 ranked free agents were offered arbitration, and of those only three accepted: catcher Michael Barrett (Padres), infielder Mark Loretta (Astros) and pitcher Andy Pettitte (Yankees). In 2006, the numbers were 25 and two (Tony Graffanino and Todd Walker).

This year, a majority of the 60 ranked free agents 27 of them are Type A and most of them will get the arbitration offer and more of them are expected to accept.

Clubs want to hedge their bets and will extend arbitration only to those they want to keep; if the player declines and signs elsewhere, fine, and if he accepts, even better. If they make the offer to a player they don't particularly want, just to get draft choices, and he accepts, they are stuck with him.

Therefore, in the case of Manny Ramirez, who the Dodgers have made a two-year offer, will receive either two first round picks or, if the market is not as strong as Manny thinks, will have his salary determined by an arbitrator (for one year).

Others assured of being offered arbitration, include CC Sabathia (Brewers), Kerry Wood (Cubs), Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira (Angels), A.J. Burnett (Blue Jays), Brian Fuentes (Rockies), Orlando Cabrera (White Sox) and Raul Ibanez (Mariners).

Others who could receive offers include Jason Varitek (Red Sox), Oliver Perez (Mets), Pat Burrell and Jamie Moyer (Phillies), Bobby Abreu and Andy Pettitte (Yankees), Edgar Renteria (Tigers), Casey Blake and Joe Beimel (Dodgers), Milton Bradley (Rangers), Dennys Reyes (Brewers) and Doug Brocail (Astros).

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