Tuesday night at 11:59 pm ET the first part of free agent arbitration ends. In this section of the arbitration game, teams have to decide whether to offer salary arbitration to those of their free agents ranked in the Elias Sports Bureau rankings. Offering such arbitration is the only way teams can assure 2011 First-Year Player Draft-pick compensation for free agents who leave the team by getting the signing team's first- or second-round choice plus a sandwich pick for Type A's, a sandwich pick for Type B's.
Arbitration offers also bring a great deal of risk for teams depending on how the free agent market evolves the player might take the offer and be locked into his old team at asalary determined through a subsequent hearing. In the past, teams have ended up bearing the cost with players they did not need at salaries they had not budgeted for. Therefore, a small number of the currently 64 ranked free agents will even get an offer of arbitration from their team and even less of those will accept the offer before the players arbitration deadline which is Tuesday, November 30 at 11:59 pm ET. Last year, out of the 19 ranked free agents who were offered arbitration, only 3 of them accepted including starting pitcher Carl Pavano (Twins) and relievers Rafael Betancourt (Rockies) and Rafael Soriano (Braves). In 2008, it was two out of 24 and in 2007 it was three out of 17.
There are really two groups of players who will accept arbitration, those a team is interesting in keeping and those they seemed resigned to losing to someone else. In this year's crop of players, Cliff Lee and the Texans, Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre and the Red Sox, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and the Yankees are in the first group - those that the team is interested in keeping. In the other section, those a team is resigned to losing to someone else, Carl Crawford and Tampa Bay, Jayson Werth and the Phillies, and Adam Dunn and the Nationals.
This year every MLB team except the Indians has free agents on the market but only 21 out of 29 of those have RANKED free agents and the ranked ones are the only ones who matter in arbitration. Out of the Rays 11 free agents they have 9 who are ranked. The Yankees and Twins each have 6 out of their 10 free agents ranked. The Padres have the most of any NL team with 5 ranked free agents. Once the teams decide who to offer arbitration to, then the players have a week to decide if the market will bear more than they can get from their current team or if they will accept their team's offer. For the teams, time's up, but for players the clock has just started to tick.