Free Agent Compensation Could Be in Jeopardy

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 15, 2006

Once Washington Nationals left fielder Alfonso Soriano becomes the fourth player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season -- he needs just one more stolen base -- the attention will likely turn to Soriano's future. The 30-year-old is enjoying a career season, is a free agent at its conclusion and has said repeatedly that he would like to remain in Washington.

The Nationals, in turn, said when they failed to trade Soriano by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline that they intended to try to sign him to a long-term contract. But they also said that, should they fail to sign him, they felt the two draft picks they would receive as compensation should Soriano leave via free agency would be worth more than any of the prospects they were offered in trade.

Now, though, there's a chance that plan could be in jeopardy. Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expires Dec. 19, and one element of the agreement that could be on the table is the system by which teams are rewarded compensatory draft picks when they lose free agents.

Nationals President Stan Kasten has refused to discuss this possibility, and MLB officials also declined to discuss the likelihood that such a scenario would affect this winter's free agent class. Soriano will be one of the top players available on the market, and under the current agreement would be classified as a "Type A" free agent, meaning he would bring two picks -- one in the first round and one sandwiched between the first and second rounds.

The Nationals also hope to receive compensatory picks should pitchers Ramon Ortiz and Tony Armas Jr. -- and perhaps even Pedro Astacio -- sign elsewhere. They would be classified as Type B or, more likely, Type C free agents, and the choices Washington would receive in return would be sandwiched between lower rounds.

The Nationals received compensatory picks for losing free agent pitchers Esteban Loaiza and Hector Carrasco this past offseason, the reason they had four picks in the first two rounds.

Vidro Hits, Castro Sits

After discussing his playing time with Manager Frank Robinson last week, second baseman Jose Vidro has started six of seven games, meaning Bernie Castro has been used only as a pinch hitter. Vidro is 8 for 27 with seven RBI in that stretch.

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