Phillies decline to make offers to four

Phillies decline to make offers to four

PHILADELPHIA -- Perhaps mindful of the raises Pat Burrell or Jamie Moyer might earn through salary arbitration, the Phillies opted not to offer arbitration to any of their four eligible free agents, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The decision, a procedural move, allows the Phillies to negotiate with the players on their own terms, rather than potentially guaranteeing a raise based on last season's salary. Because they didn't offer arbitration to Burrell, Moyer, Tom Gordon and Rudy Seanez, the Phillies forfeited Draft-pick compensation if those players sign with another team.

This doesn't prohibit the defending World Series champions from bringing back any of the affected players, and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has said that the Phillies would like to bring back Moyer, at least. By offering six-year free agents arbitration by 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, clubs would guarantee two Draft picks for any Type A free agent it lost, such as Moyer and Burrell.

A club cannot receive compensation for any free agent it loses if it does not offer arbitration. Because the Phillies can still negotiate with Moyer and Burrell -- unlike in previous years, prior to a Basic Agreement change -- Monday's deadline was more about compensation and salary, not a lack of interest in either player.

The Phillies are faced with 10 potential arbitration cases -- including World Series MVP Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, Chad Durbin and Jayson Werth -- and didn't want to run the risk of seeing the payroll jump even further.

Hot Stove

While protecting Draft picks is incentive for teams to offer arbitration, the danger of a player accepting can make it not worth the risk. In recent years, the Phillies have been burned in this manner by Kevin Millwood and Placido Polanco.

Burrell is coming off a season in which he earned $14 million, while hitting 33 homers and driving in 86 runs. Given the state of the economy, Burrell might not have received anything close to that annual salary and may have accepted the offer, essentially making him a signed player and guaranteeing himself a raise.

Ditto for Moyer, who earned $8.5 million after incentives, and went 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA in 33 starts for Philadelphia. While the organization has made no secret of its desire to keep the 46-year-old -- especially with a one-year deal -- perhaps the team just wanted to continue talks on its own terms.

Discussions with Moyer have grown cold in recent weeks, even as the sides appeared close and the Phillies have prioritized bringing back the lefty. Moyer is believed to be seeking a multiyear deal, but his earning potential for 2009 likely prompted Philadelphia's decision.

Though the Phillies could likely budget for the players, the uncertainty was likely a factor as it could influence the team's pursuit of other free agents. It may now affect the chase for pitchers A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe and outfielder Raul Ibanez, because all three were offered arbitration by their respective teams.

Because the Phillies won't receive compensation if they lose one of their own free agents, they may be reluctant to sign a player who would cost them their own first-round Draft pick. Rocco Baldelli and Juan Rivera are two potential fits who can be signed without losing a Draft pick.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.