Free agency officially begins tonight. As negotiations progress, we'll likely see some moves that will impact the 2012 MLB Draft. The players involved:
Atlanta Braves, Type B: Alex Gonzalez.
Washington Nationals: None.
Florida Marlins: None.
Let's start at the top...I think it's pretty obvious that the Phillies offer arbitration to at least Madson and Rollins. Both will decline arbitration, but either could be re-signed by the ballclub - netting no picks. Offering Oswalt is a huge risk, because he's working off some high salaries. In the end, I think they do not offer Oswalt.
The best-case scenario, for the Braves, is likely that Madson and Rollins re-sign with the club and Oswalt leaves after not being offered arbitration. I'd hate for the Phillies to restock their farm system at this point...let's keep them buying up veterans at the cost of picks and trading what prospects they have left for more veterans at the deadline.
In regards to their Type B free agents, I don't think they can afford to offer arbitration to either without a gentleman's agreement for the players to decline. Both have made far too much money for arbitration to be a wise move. In the end, I think both are not offered and neither re-signs. But they might both come back for considerably less money...we'll just have to see.
The Braves will likely offer Alex Gonzalez arbitration, and it's up to him whether he decides to accept, decline, and/or re-sign. In the end, I see it as a 50/50, with the Braves looking to upgrade the position immediately if he declines. Barmes is an option, and Furcal could be a big darkhorse...depends on whether Wren wants to work with his agent. I don't see anyone else on the SS free agent board that I like as a full-time option, so it's fairly likely that a deal with Sea Bass occurs.
That just leaves Reyes, who will be offered and who will decline. The Mets could re-sign him, but that sounds like a bit of a longshot at this point. His suitors are not likely to be in the bottom 15 teams, so the Mets should get an extra first-rounder for their troubles.
It is also important to note that if the Phillies, Braves, or Nationals sign a Type A free agent, they will lose their first-round pick. The Mets and Marlins are free to sign a Type A player without losing a first-rounder, but they will give away a second or even a third-rounder (if they should sign two) for that privilege.
I expect both those teams to seriously look at the entire board of FA as a result of this. The Mets, for instance, may find a cheaper Rollins more to their liking, netting a first-rounder for Reyes while sending a second-round pick to Philly. Is the money differential and the pick upgrade worth it?? Maybe. I expect the Mets to kick the tires of Kelly Johnson, since 2B has long been an issue and they won't have to give up a first-rounder to get him. They could look at almost anyone and everyone, since 3B and perhaps 1B are the only positions they can't upgrade (Pujols and Fielder excluded on the 1B upgrade).
The Marlins could look at just about every player that's not a C, 2B, or SS and find someone of use in the "top-tier" of free agents, especially if the artist formerly known as Leo Nunez doesn't get his situation sorted, and quick. If they want to make a splash, they're in the position to do it, draft-wise.
As for the Braves, the only Type A players I can foresee them kicking the tires on are Beltran, Cuddyer, and Willingham. Since Beltran can't be offered arbitration, that will add value to his allure. I really would rather not give up a pick for the other two.
Time to get the Hot Stove fired up...