Type A free agents, if they are offered and decline arbitration, bring back two early draft picks if signed by another team. The top 15 teams in baseball surrender their first round pick and a sandwich pick (between first and second round) to the old team if they sign the free agent, while the bottom 15 teams give up their second round pick and a sandwich pick. So if the Phillies offer Ryan Madson arbitration and he declines then signs with the Nationals, the Phillies would get the Nats’ second-rounder and a sandwich pick. Make that first-rounder and sandwich pick, because the Nationals had the 15th best record. (Why did I have to pick the most confusing example?)
The Phillies will almost certainly offer arbitration to Rollins and Madson. If either accepts (which they won’t), they would be back with the Phillies next year for a salary that cannot be lower than 80 percent of last year’s figure or 70 percent of the figure from two years prior.
Neither player would accept arbitration because both Rollins and Madson are seeking long-term financial commitments. But how about Oswalt? Would the Phillies offer him arbitration?
Probably not. Teams don’t typically decline an option and then offer arbitration. The upside to offering Oswalt arbitration would be acquiring two early draft picks if he rejects and signs elsewhere. The downside would be if Oswalt accepts, he would command a salary similar to the $16 million he made in 2011.
The Phillies were recently burned by a player unexpectedly accepting arbitration, so Ruben Amaro would likely prefer not to take the risk. Placido Polanco was offered arbitration prior to the 2005 season and accepted, putting the Phillies in a bind as some guy named Chase Utley was waiting in the wings.
David Bell was coming off the best year of his career and there was no room for Polanco – which was unfortunate, because Polly was entering his prime and would be infinitely better in the future than a soon-to-be-cooked Bell. Polanco played all over the place in that 2005 season, even seeing time in left field. He was eventually traded for Ugueth Urbina.
The Phils would be overjoyed if Rollins or Madson accept arbitration, but that is about as likely as Ryan Mathews staying healthy for a full Chargers game. With Oswalt, the risk of his accepting outweighs the reward of a few early picks.