Elite 8 free agents reject qualifying offers

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- B.J. Upton and Kyle Lohse were among nine free agents who turned down $13.3 million offers from their former clubs Friday as the annual general managers' meetings ended and team officials headed home for what figures to be a busy month of negotiations (full story here).

Also rejecting the one-year guaranteed offers were the New York Yankees' trio of Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano and Hiroki Kuroda, along with Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn, Adam LaRoche and David Ortiz, who agreed to a $26 million, two-year deal to stay with the Red Sox.

Under the old rules, teams had until Dec. 7 to offer salary arbitration to their former players who became free agents. Top players under a statistical formula that was part of the 1981 strike settlement had compensation attached if they signed with new clubs -- which would lose high-round draft picks.

Under the labor contract agreed to last November, that system was replaced by qualifying offers. A team could make a qualifying offer last week that was the average of the 125 highest big league contracts by average annual value -- $13.3 million this year.

The aforementioned players all said no in anticipation of receiving more dollars and years in the open market.

Now if they switch teams, their new club will lose a draft choice next June -- its highest pick, unless that selection is among the top 10 in the first round. If a club signs more than one qualified free agent, it forfeits its highest remaining pick for each additional qualified free agent it adds.

For some of the remaining eight players, compensation may cause some teams to shy away.

"Would I have less interest in guys if I lost my No. 1 pick? Yes," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "I've been recently trying to steer clear of losing our draft pick."

The Red Sox wouldn't have to give up their first round pick because of the top-10 protection clause: They own the No. 7 overall pick by virtue of their 69-93 record, so they would forfeit only a second-rounder if they were to sign one of the elite eight free agents.

ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald has reported that the Red Sox are interested in a few of them.

"We'll keep an eye on it," Sox GM Ben Cherington said Thursday. "I bet you guys can probably predict that as well as I could, and probably pretty accurately. I don't think there will be too many surprises in their decisions. We'll keep an eye on it and react accordingly. We have interest in plenty of free agents, including some who are in that group."

Cherington's main concerns this offseason are first base, the corner outfield positions and adding a pitcher to the starting rotation.

Information from ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald and The Associated Press was used in this report.