The deadline for teams to offer their own free agents arbitration is tomorrow and some have wondered if the Braves wouldn't be better off not offering arbitration to both of their Type A relievers, Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano. The argument has been that if both players accepted the Braves would be hampered in their ability to acquire their other offseason needs by the salaries those two would command in arbitration, perhaps upwards of 8 million each, and that the benefit of offering them both arbitration, the 1st round draft picks that would be received as compensation if another team signed them, could be hindered if said team signed more than one Type A free agent, meaning the other free agent's former team could get the 1st round pick the Braves had been banking on, leaving them instead with a 2nd round pick.
Confused yet? Well, that's the MLB offseason for you. The scenario where the Braves could offer Gonzalez or Soriano arbitration and still not be compensated with a first round pick seems unlikely, at least according to the Elias rankings of the Type A free agents. The Elias rankings, which are also used to determine who is a Type A free agent in the first place, have Gonzalez as the 5th highest rated free agent, coming in behind Matt Holliday, Jose Valverde, Jason Bay, and Johnny Damon, and Soriano as 7th, with John Lackey between him and Gonzalez.
What this means is that the only way the Braves wouldn't recieve a first round draft pick if another team signed Gonzalez or Soraino (assuming the Braves had offered them arbitration) is if that same team signs a player ahead of them on the list. It's highly unlikely that any team that signs Valverde, another top reliever, would sign Gonzalez or Soriano, so he's not worth worrying about and the only teams with the likely funds to sign 2 of the top 7 free agents are the Red Sox and Yankees, so it's not worth worrying about Damon either, since he seems unlikely to return to Boston and his re-signing with New York wouldn't affect draft pick compensation at all.
Thus, the players worth being concerned about are Holliday and Bay, the two most attractive hitters on the open market, and Lackey, the best pitcher out there. While anything is possible, and this is a total hunch, Bay seems unlikely to go to New York and if he is re-signed by the Red Sox, a strong possiblity, he wouldn't affect compensation. The Red Sox are always in the market for starting pitching, but they seem ulikely to spend to sign Lackey, preferring to supplement their rotation with low risk/high reward alternatives, but New York appears to be a very likely landing spot for the big righty. Similarly, Holliday has been atttached in rumors to New York and even more so to Boston, so it seems plausible that he could sign with one of those teams, but his old team, the Cardinals, will make every effort to bring him back.
It seems likely that the only free agents who could keep the Braves from getting their 1st round draft pick compensation are Matt Holliday and John Lackey, and even then it would mean that a team had spent big on the free agent market, something the Red Sox seem disinclined to do and the Yankees, after their splurge last off season, might actually be unable to do.