LAS VEGAS -- There were no surprises for the Brewers on Sunday, when free-agent pitchers CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets and Brian Shouse all declined the club's offer of arbitration. The decisions leave the Brewers positioned to receive as many as five extra selections in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft if all three players sign with other teams. Milwaukee would get two compensatory picks apiece for Sabathia and Sheets, who are both classified as Type A free agents, and one extra pick for Shouse, who qualified as Type B. None of the decisions was necessarily surprising, as Sabathia, Sheets and Shouse are all seeking multiyear contracts on the open market. Had any of them accepted the Brewers' offer, they would have been considered signed players for 2009, and a one-year salary would have been determined at a later date.
The Brewers did not offer arbitration to their other compensation-eligible player, reliever Eric Gagne. Gagne likely would have accepted, locking the Brewers into a 2009 contract similar or richer than his $10 million deal in 2008. The Brewers can still negotiate with Sabathia, Sheets and Shouse thanks to a change in the most recent collective bargaining agreement. Until that change took effect, free agents who declined arbitration could not re-sign with their former clubs until May 1 of the following season. Shouse's agent informed general manager Doug Melvin of the decision before Melvin traveled to the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas on Sunday evening. The decisions by Sabathia and Sheets were filed closer to the 11 p.m. CT deadline for players to accept or decline. Sabathia is widely considered the top available pitcher on this winter's free-agent market, so his decision to decline was expected. But there was some question about Sheets, a four-time All-Star whose value could be affected by his series of injuries since 2005. Sheets could have accepted the Brewers' offer, received an arbitration-inflated salary for 2009 and then tested free agency again during the 2009-2010 offseason. Melvin has said that he will meet with Sheets' agent, Casey Close, this week at the Winter Meetings. Shouse, who turned 40 in September, has been clear since the end of the season that he wants a two-year deal and said that several teams had already expressed some interest. "I still feel good, and I think I still have a lot of years," Shouse said earlier in the offseason. "I feel like I'm getting better and better as the years go on. I think that's more confidence, maybe feeling more comfortable, and a maturity level, too. I realize what my strengths and weaknesses are, and I try to work off that."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.