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November 9, 2012

Free agents reject $13.3M deals as GMs head home

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton and Kyle Lohse were among nine free agents who turned down $13.3 million offers from their former clubs Friday as the annual general managers’ ended and team officials headed home for what figures to be a busy month of negotiations.

Also rejecting the one-year guaranteed offers were the New York Yankees’ trio of Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano and Hiroki Kuroda along with David Ortiz, Michael Bourn and Adam LaRoche.

Under baseball’s new labor contract, all the deadlines of the business season has been speeded up in an attempt to prompt quicker decisions before the Christmas holidays.

That should create more activity in the market before teams head to the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., from Dec. 3-6.

“It expedites things, People are out there and available and being discussed right away,” said Dave Dombrowski, president of the AL champion Detroit Tigers. “It definitely has picked things up more quickly.”

Under the old rules, teams had until Dec. 7 to offer salary arbitration to their former players who became free agents. Top players under a statistical formula that was part of the 1981 strike settlement had compensation attached if they signed with new clubs — which would lose high-round draft picks.

Under the labor contract agreed to last November, that system was replaced by qualifying offers. A team could make a qualifying offer last week that was the average of the 125 highest big league contracts by average annual value — $13.3 million this year.

Just nine of 165 major league free agents were given the offers — Ortiz then agreed to a $26 million, two-year deal to stay with the Red Sox. The group all said no in anticipation of receiving more dollars and years in the open market.

Now if they switch teams, their new club will lose a draft choice next June — its highest pick, unless that selection is among the top 10 in the first round. If a club signs more than one qualified free agent, it forfeits its highest remaining pick for each additional qualified free agent it adds.

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