Free agents reject $13.3M deals as GMs head home

Free agents reject $13.3M deals as GMs head home

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Josh Hamilton, 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' ended and team officials headed home for what figures to be a busy month of negotiations.

Also rejecting the one-year guaranteed offers were the New York Yankees' trio of Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano and Hiroki Kuroda along with David Ortiz, Michael Bourn and Adam LaRoche.

Under baseball's new labor contract, all the deadlines of the business season has been speeded up in an attempt to prompt quicker decisions before the Christmas holidays. That should create more activity in the market before teams head to the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., from Dec. 3-6.

``It expedites things, People are out there and available and being discussed right away,'' said Dave Dombrowski, president of the AL champion Detroit Tigers. ``It definitely has picked things up more quickly.''

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.

Just nine of 165 major league free agents were given the offers - Ortiz then agreed to a $26 million, two-year deal to stay with the Red Sox. The group 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.''

In the past decade, free agents requiring compensation ranged from a low of 12 in 2003 to a high of 41 the following year - with the average at 22. The new rules mean teams can sign more players without figuring in the loss of draft selections, who are prized because they are years from eligibility for arbitration and free agency.

Only the elite players require compensation. The group that's below them include pitchers Zack Greinke and Ryan Dempster, outfielders Torii Hunter and Ichiro Suzuki, catcher Mike Napoli and first baseman Carlos Pena. Melky Cabrera, the All-Star game MVP, also is available after serving his 50-game suspension for a positive drug test.

``Most qualifying offers are really for players of the highest value,'' agent Scott Boras said. ``There's a lot of good players that didn't receive qualifying offers. It allows for so much earlier planning than the other system, so I think it's really been very good. It allows more freedom for those players that fit below that top regime of talent.''

There wasn't a major trade announced during the three-day session, and the podium at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa - owned by Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort - wasn't used a single time.

But there was ample discussion among team executives and with the many agents on hand. While in past seasons teams held off completing free agent deals until Dec. 8 - not wanting to lose draft picks - they anticipate being more aggressive.

Trade talks appear to be in the feeling-out stage. Among the players who might be available are Arizona outfielder Justin Upton and Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

``Individually there might be people who are gaining momentum in their discussions,'' Cashman said. ``I'm not.''

NOTES: Physicist Leonard Mlodinow addressed the GMs Friday and they were given copies of his book, ``The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules our Lives.''

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Stanley: Meaningful December games part of Ravens culture

Stanley: Meaningful December games part of Ravens culture

As the Ravens make their final month-long drive for the playoffs, they are right where they want to be: playing meaningful games in December.

Granted, they'd probably prefer a two-game lead in the AFC North, but they are once again right in the thick of the playoff chase, which is the way it has almost always been for the Ravens under John Harbaugh.

In fact, until last season, the Ravens had never played a game under Harbaugh in which they were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

Still, the team missed the playoffs in 2013 and then again last season. Many younger players have little to no playoff experience.

"The biggest thing is just trying to somehow get it through to the young guys how unique of an opportunity we have," quarterback Joe Flacco said after Sunday's 38-6 win over the Dolphins. "Getting to the playoffs is a big-time accomplishment, and to position yourself in December to play these meaningful games is also a big-time accomplishment, and you can’t take it for granted."

Rookie first-round draft pick Ronnie Stanley is one of those younger players, and he said from the minute the Ravens called his name with the No. 6 overall pick in April, he fully expected to be in this position.

"When I got drafted, I knew I got lucky in the sense that usually teams like the Ravens aren't picking this early," Stanley said after Sunday's game. "And when I say teams like the Ravens I mean teams that are usually in the playoffs every year."

"I definitely knew I was coming to a team that was used to being in the playoffs and didn't accept anything less, so I was very excited about that."

Stanley missed four games with a foot injury, and his return -- and a solidified, adjusted offensive line that features All-Pro Marshal Yanda shifting over to play left guard -- is a major reason the Ravens have reeled off four wins in five games after an earlier four-game losing streak.

Now they head to New England on Monday atop the AFC North, and win or lose in New England, they will head to Pittsburgh on Christmas Day with a division title still in reach.

That's exactly how Harbaugh, Flacco and the veteran Ravens are used to having it. Now the onus is on Stanley and other young players to keep it that way.

"Our goal is always to be relevant in December," Harbaugh said last week. "We like to be in the lead in December. We want to have the lead in December, if we can. We’re in that position right now. That’s as much as we’ll talk about. It’s a one-week season for us."

RELATED: Ravens run defense will have its hands full with LeGarrette Blount

 

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Pierre-Paul injury a big loss for Redskins' playoff rival

Pierre-Paul injury a big loss for Redskins' playoff rival

When you’re fighting for a playoff spot, it’s not only about what happens to you. It’s also about what happens to the teams you’re competing against for that playoff spot. And one of the Redskins’ main competitors got some very bad news this morning.

The Giants, who are in the No. 5 spot in the NFC, the first wild card spot, got word today that defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has had sports hernia surgery. The recovery time is at least four weeks, probably more like six. The Giants’ season is likely to be over by the time six weeks elapse, barring a playoff run without one of their best defensive players.

Pierre-Paul has helped solidify what was a shaky Giants defense last year. He has seven sacks and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. He has been heating up down the stretch with 5.5 sacks in his last three games.

His loss is a big blow for the Giants. They are a game ahead of the Buccaneers, who hold the No. 6 spot, and a game and a half ahead of the Redskins, who are currently seventh.

The Redskins play New York in Week 17 so the Redskins have to pick up just one game on the Giants over the next three to have a shot at passing them in the season finale.

The chances of that happening looked pretty good with Washington playing playing three teams with losing records in the Eagles, Panthers, and Bears and the Giants going against division leaders Dallas and Detroit in addition to the Eagles. With the Giants now without Pierre-Paul, the Redskins’ probabilities got tilted in their direction a little bit more.

Just finishing ahead of the Giants wouldn’t guarantee a playoff spot but it would come close. It would mean that the Redskins would have at least nine wins and the Redskins’ tie means that two teams would have to get to 10 wins to knock them out of the playoffs. The Bucs have to win three more games to get to nine wins and the Packers and Vikings would have to run the table.