MLB's Type A casualties

Updated: November 15, 2011, 10:54 AM ET
By Buster Olney

The talks for the labor agreement have dragged on longer than Major League Baseball had hoped. The dream in the commissioner's office was that there would be a settlement announced at the World Series, amid the pomp and circumstance and banners, and that this would place baseball -- which had long been a symbol of labor unrest -- in a different light from the National Football League and the National Basketball Association, where the lawyers and judges have recently been as important as quarterbacks and point guards.

But the deal wasn't announced in Texas or St. Louis, and it wasn't announced Monday in Milwaukee. Team officials have been told that, until instructed otherwise, they will operate under the old rules, and the longer the talks linger, the less likely it is that some rules will be put in place for the 2012 season.

There are a handful of ballplayers who have a special interest in the question of when the rules go into effect -- those players deemed as Type A free agents. It appears that Type A first-round-pick compensation will be eliminated for all but the elite players, whenever the deal is done; the two sides are still tinkering with the formula to determine who the elite players are.

Carl Crawford was a Type A free agent when he signed with the Boston Red Sox this past December, so the Tampa Bay Rays got a first-round draft pick in return. Under the old system -- the system in place as of today -- any team in the bottom half of the draft, i.e., those teams with the 15 best records the previous year, that signs a Type A free agent loses a first-round pick. Any team in the top half of the draft loses a second-round pick.

As teams have focused more and more on the importance of the draft in the past decade, they have coveted their top picks and been reluctant to surrender them for lesser Type A free agents such as setup men Juan Cruz and Grant Balfour, and this has been a drag on their negotiating leverage. As teams have structured offers for those lesser Type A free agents, agents believe, the clubs essentially have factored the cost of the draft pick into their proposals, reducing the dollar amount. The Cruzes and Balfours of the market have been hurt by the system in a way nobody anticipated.

And if the new rules don't go into effect soon, the lesser Type A's will be hurt again -- first, because they are left to sit and wait for their market value to be defined while players such as Jonathan Papelbon and Jamey Carroll and Mark Ellis have been free to sign. And perhaps they are also left to sit later if the new negotiated rules don't go into effect until next fall.

The Type A's who would seem to have the most at stake: