The flood waters borne by the free agent hurricane have subsided. Baseball seems safe, both now and in the foreseeable future, from the self-inflicted chaos of its Dollar Wars.

Today's free-agent draft of 41 players - including several aging stars like Pete Rose, Tommy John and Luis Tiant - provides an invigorating offseason swell of interest, but not a potentially catastrophic tidal wave like previous November sweepstakes.

Baseball hopes that this is a first glimpse of the way free-agentry is going to be for years to come - fun, inflationary, but essentially safe.

The foundation of the game are not going to be shaken by questions like, "Exactly how much are Larry Gura, Darrell Evans and Rico Carty worth?"

In the last two Novembers, with all of baseball's 600-plus serfs theoretically freed at about the same time, a total of 23 players jumped teams for million-dollar contracts.

The game held its breath and prepared to give Competitive Balance its last rites. Instead, partly thanks to luck, the wealth of talent was spread a bit, pennant races were healthy and attendance boomed.

Now, the worst - or best, in terms of excitement - is over. Future Novembers should be like this one as once-burned, twice-shy owners try to evaluate a limited but tempting pool of hot-stove game has changed from Mega-Bucks to Who's-Worth-What?

This year's draft has a distinct personality. It's the Antique Auction.

After two bull markets, the bears will be out today since none of the free agents is a star player in his prime.

The high-rolling owners will try to find dusty, back-shelf bargains off what reads like an All-Star team of ancients.

Starting pitchers - John of Los Angeles (35), Tiant of Boston (37, at least), and Wilber Wood of Chicago (37).

Relief pitchers - Minnesota's Mike Marshall (35), Montreal's Darold Knowles (37) and Atlanta's peripaletic Jim Bouton (39).

Infield - Cincinnati's Rose (37), Philadelphia's Bud Harrelson (34), San Francisco's Evans (31) and Boston's Beetle Bailey (36).

Outfield - Pittsburgh's Cito Gaston (34) and Toronto's Carty (39) and Willie Horton (36),

Will this year's small list of quality merchandise cause owners to bid even more outrageously than they have before?

Or will front offices - remembering stars in their prime like Don Gullett, Bobby Grich, Lyman Bostock. Wayne Garland and Joe Rudi who turned out disastrously - become suddenly more cautious, especially about long-term contracts?

"The free-agent list shows that the players don't play musical chairs," Marvin Miller, director of the players association, said this week. "The names that do not appear are at least as significant as those that do.

"Those that don't appear prove that long-term contracts have become more and more common and provide teams with the necessary stability. Free-agency has actually enhanced competitive balance."

Two years ago, a dozen owners would have screamed at such pronouncements. This week, no one made a peep.

When the leisurely drafting starts today, with each player eligible to be drafted by 14 teams - no need to rush - most clubs will be looking for a steal.

At least three teams - Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Los Angeles - must make fundamental decisions about where they are headed.

Rose, he of the 44-game hitting streak, has had a bitter and embattled nonrelationship with antediluvian GM Dick Wagner for years - ever since Rose introduced 10 Reds (one at a time) to an agent named Jerry Kapstein. Every one of those Reds os now gone.

If the Reds lose Rose, that master of all-fronts contract warfare will it be time to break up the Reds' big eight - trading aging every-day players like Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench while they are still marketable?

The Phils, desperate for a team leader and a leadoff man, must decide if they are willing to offer Rose the biggest contract in baseball history. That's what it probably will take to get him, but the dreamy-eyed Phils who already have the highest payroll in baseball (139,000 per man), want Rose fiercely. Rose, for his part, has been saying, "I Love Philly" and "Sure, I can learn to play first base" for a year.

The Dodgers, who treat free agents like lepers, think they can ignore John's demands because they have 21-year-old Bob Welch and a minor league phenom, Bob Swiacki, in the wings.

But if the Dodgers lose outfielders Bill North and Lee Lacy, as well, it could cause a distinct Los Angeles landslide.

Those considerations, however, are a far cry from the holocaust discussions of the last two winters. Baseball has returned at last to its same old self - with a manageable little hint of madness added by today's First Annual Antique Auction.