Not Much Changed on Friday
Friday was the day by which major league clubs had to offer salary arbitration to their unsigned veterans. Not offering arbitration always meant a player couldn't re-sign with his current team until May 1 -- all but guaranteeing that the player was going to be playing elsewhere next year, unless he was Roger Clemens. Not offering arbitration to the likes of Barry Bonds, Andy Pettitte, Greg Maddux and Mike Piazza didn't have the same meaning this Friday, as the May 1st stipulation wasn't part of the new collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated over the last year. So, it's possible Bonds, Pettitte and Maddux will stay put in 2007, as they can continue negotiating with their current clubs and be on the Opening Day roster. Another key change, however, is that the deadline for offering arbitration was moved up from Dec. 7, which now is the date by which players have to decide whether to accept or decline the offer under the new rules. The deadline for the player's decision used to be Dec. 19. Also moved up is the deadline by which teams have to offer contracts to their players -- to Dec. 12 -- and these earlier deadlines mean the overall free-agent market becomes clearer sooner and allows free agents a longer period of time to negotiate. That also means the signing frenzy at and immediately following next week's winter meetings could be more exciting than usual. The big-name free agents are starting to come to terms and a wave of signings by the remaining free agents could follow. It will be interesting to see how many teams' rosters fill out rapidly before the holidays at the end of the month. Dozens of players will join the ranks of the free-agent class in the next 7-10 days, and many will change teams in the next few weeks. Look for a lot of action, but don't hold your breath waiting for a quick decision from one of the best free-agent pitchers on the market, Roger Clemens.