If a team loses a Type A free agent who was offered arbitration, that team is compensated with extra picks in the Draft. That compensation is the first-round pick from the team that signs the free agent (unless that pick is among the first 15) as well as a pick in the supplemental first round.
Bonus picks are also acquired for Type B free agents, with a sandwich pick coming from the signing team. Felipe Lopez is the one remaining Type B free agent on the market, so his signing could still alter things after the first round.
Even with that looming, there are a few things known about the 2011 Draft:
1. The Pittsburgh Pirates, by virtue of having the worst record in 2010, will have the first pick. They've had numerous top-10 selections, but this will be the first time they've selected first since they took pitcher Bryan Bullington in 2002.
BY ORDER OF THE DRAFT
2. The first round will be the longest in Draft history. Thanks to compensation for unsigned first-round picks, there will be 33 selections in the first round. The Diamondbacks (for Barret Loux), the Padres (for Karsten Whitson) and the Brewers (for Dylan Covey) will each receive a compensation pick. The Diamondbacks will have two picks in the top 10.
Here is the complete first-round order: 1. Pirates; 2. Mariners; 3. Diamondbacks; 4. Orioles; 5. Royals; 6. Nationals; 7. Diamondbacks (for unsigned Loux); 8. Indians; 9. Cubs; 10. Padres (for unsigned Whitson); 11. Astros; 12. Brewers; 13. Mets; 14. Marlins; 15. Brewers (for unsigned Covey); 16. Dodgers; 17. Angels; 18. A's; 19. Red Sox (from Tigers for Victor Martinez); 20. Rockies; 21. Blue Jays; 22. Cardinals; 23. Nationals (from White Sox for Adam Dunn); 24. Rays (from Red Sox for Carl Crawford); 25. Padres; 26. Red Sox (from Rangers for Adrian Beltre); 27. Reds; 28. Braves; 29. Giants; 30. Twins; 31. Rays (from Yankees for Rafael Soriano); 32. Rays; 33. Rangers (from Phillies for Cliff Lee).
3. No team in baseball will be busier than the Tampa Bay Rays. Thanks to free-agent compensation, they will make 12 of the first 89 picks, pending what happens with Lopez
Pick No. 32 is the Rays' natural pick. But they'll also select at No. 24 and No. 31. The 24th pick comes from the Red Sox for their signing of Carl Crawford and the 31st pick comes courtesy of the Yankees for Rafael Soriano.
That would be a big haul by itself. But that's not even close to being it. The Rays will have seven picks in the supplemental first round, thanks to the three Type A free agents they lost: Crawford, Soriano and Grant Balfour (they don't get the A's first-round pick, because while it's No. 18 now, it was in the top 15 before the Balfour signing). Tampa Bay also lost four Type B players: Joaquin Benoit, Randy Choate, Chad Qualls and Brad Hawpe.
To cap it off, they'll get the A's pick in the second round as well as their own selection. That's a dozen selections before the second round is over. While a team would undoubtedly love to keep big league players around, that kind of bounty must make scouts feel like kids in a candy store.
"Sure, you get more chances to play," said a relatively understated Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison. "We got a little taste of it last year. It was the first time we had extra picks. That was a little bit of a warm-up to this year."
Tampa Bay had five picks over the first two rounds in 2010. Even with the big jump in total early selections, Harrison believes his group will look at it as business as usual when it comes time to make decisions.
"We have a really good staff, a good, full staff that ownership has allowed us to build the last five years," Harrison said. "And we've been together for a while. We're not scrambling with a bunch of new guys. We have a pretty good process. We're trying to stay current and progress with it, but we're not going to do anything differently. We're just going to have more opportunities to take guys."
Tampa Bay spent a little more than $7 million in Draft bonuses in 2010, and Harrison has been allowed to pursue a few players over the years aggressively who had slid because of signability. But 12 players up that high is a whole different ballgame. Economics matter, but Harrison doesn't foresee it preventing the scouting staff from conducting business as it has in the past.
"I think it always enters in a little bit," he said of financial considerations. "We have to evaluate players on their ability. That's the most important thing. We try to do the best job we can evaluating their tools. Then you get into the whole signability issue.
"We've had the opportunity to go down in the Draft and draft some guys we thought were prospects and pay them accordingly. We don't believe in paying guys first-round money unless we feel they're first-round picks. I foresee us being able to go out and do the same things we've always done, line these guys up, have the same conversations we always have. We're going to be very competitive, but we're not going to pay guys, if we had one or 12 picks, more than what we feel their value is."
The Rays aren't the only ones with multiple selections. The Nationals have two picks in the first round, at No. 6 and the White Sox's pick at No. 23 for Adam Dunn. Even though the Red Sox lost their pick for signing Crawford, they picked up two -- for Victor Martinez (No. 19, from Detroit) and Adrian Beltre (No. 26, from Texas). They'll get sandwich picks for those two, as well as from whichever team signs Lopez.
Of course, having extra picks can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the strength of a particular Draft class. While any scouting director will say that big leaguers come out of every class, it probably would make for a more productive exercise if the talent pool is deep. The 2011 Draft season hasn't really begun yet, so it's a bit too soon to tell, but early indications are there will be plenty of talent to be had come June.
"We'll know more as the spring unfolds, but going in, everyone is fairly optimistic about this Draft class," Harrison said. "Some guys won't come on the way we anticipate them to, and there will be other guys who are going to jump up. It's going to be a very interesting next five months."