After the season, players were ranked according to an Elias Sports Bureau system that took into account their statistics from the past two seasons.
Clubs had until 11 p.m. CT on Wednesday to decide whether to offer arbitration to their Type A and Type B free agents in order to be eligible for compensation in the following season's Draft. Players who received such an offer, including Fielder and Rodriguez, have until 11 p.m. CT on Dec. 7 to decide whether to accept.
It can be a difficult decision for clubs, because if a player accepts, the sides are bound to a one-year contract for 2012 at a salary to be determined in arbitration. As much as teams hate to lose players and get no compensation in return, they risk the player accepting and taking a salary that does not fit into the club's payroll structure. For example, Fielder, who earned $15.5 million in 2011, and Rodriguez, who made $13.5 million, would be in line for raises. A year ago, two out of 27 free agents offered arbitration -- relievers Frank Francisco of the Rangers and Jason Frasor of the Blue Jays -- accepted the offer.
If a player declines, he is free to sign multi-year contracts with another club, and his former club is in line for Draft compensation. Here's where it gets a bit complicated.
For Fielder, the Brewers would get a "sandwich" pick between the first and second rounds, plus either the first- or second-round pick from his new team. If that team finished with one of the 15 best records during the 2011 regular season, and thus picks from 16-30 in the first round of the following Draft, the Brewers get that team's first-round pick. If that team finished with one of the 15 poorest records, and picks from 1-15 in the Draft, the Brewers get that team's second-round selection instead.
For Rodriguez, a modified plan was announced Tuesday as part of the pending Collective Bargaining Agreement. He still qualifies as a Type A free agent, and the Brewers remained in line to receive two compensatory picks, but Rodriguez's new team no longer must surrender a Draft pick to sign him. Rodriguez was among six players who received this status, which should help open their markets this winter.
Instead of taking the signing new team's first- or second-round pick, Milwaukee instead would receive a sandwich pick between the first two rounds, plus an extra pick slotted directly in front of the selection that the signing club would have otherwise forfeited.
For example, the Twins are in need of a closer after Joe Nathan signed with the Rangers. They choose second in the 2012 Draft, a protected pick, so the Brewers would get one pick between the first two rounds, plus the second pick in the second round. The Twins would follow, and on down the line.
Beginning in 2012, that system is discarded in favor of a new system of free-agent compensation. Under the new system, teams will receive compensation for losing a free agent only if they offer -- and the player rejects -- a guaranteed, one-year contract equal to the average salary of the league's 125 highest-paid players. Compensation for losing such players will consist of one Draft pick at the end of the first round.
According to MLB Network contributor Ken Rosenthal, that 125-player average will work out to roughly $12 million.
Among the Brewers' projected free agents at the end of the 2012 season are starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. Another starter, Randy Wolf, could join that group if Milwaukee declines his $10 million option.