December 1st and the deadline for making arbitration offers to 6-year free agents has passed. The Jays offered arbitration to A.J. Burnett, to the surprise of no one. They did not offer arbitration to Gregg Zaun, who is apparently an item of interest to the Detroit Tigers.
The biggest thing to take from the day is big news, in my opinion, and it is this: If you thought, amidst rising attendance and revenues over the past few seasons across the league, that the sluggish economy would not affect the baseball market, you were wrong. At least the teams themselves are clearly convinced that the market is going to be cold for these free agents, or they would be offering them arbitration. Just a few players who were not offered arbitration, who almost certainly would've been in a players' FA market: Edgar Renteria, Bobby Abreu, Andy Pettitte, Randy Wolf, Kerry Wood, Adam Dunn, Joe Beimel, Pat Burrell, Braden Looper, Jamie Moyer. Rince will be happy since we can now sign Jamie Moyer and not give up a draft pick. Certainly, for example, the Diamondbacks did not envision getting no draft picks for Dunn when they traded for him, but that will be the result. And what do the Yankees of all teams have to fear from getting someone like Abreu or Pettitte on 1-year deals? Nothing, unless they think they can sign the same or comparable players for significantly less on the market.
In terms of names of interest to the Jays, Milton Bradley was offered arbitration, but as a type B free agent the team that signs him will not have to give up anything.
If I had to guess what this means for the free agent market: clearly, the top guys like Sabathia are going to get their money. Below the first tier of free agents, the situation is less clear. A wise agent might counsel his clients to take a 1-year deal for a higher annual salary in order to wait out the market, rather than accept a multiyear deal at a less-than-desired salary, so we might see players sign for shorter deals than they had originally requested. It's also possible the market will be robust and teams are just being overly conservative, but I doubt it. Perhaps with the price driven down, the Jays will find themselves in a position to sign some free agents after all - if nothing else, we know they have the payroll room from last season. Short-term deals for a pitcher or a DH would be just the thing, since the Jays' pitching situation looks much better in 2010 and there are some hitters on the way as well. We will just have to see how this plays out.