Free agents might hold out until after June draft

Big League Stew

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Santana (left), Drew and Morales. (Getty)

Imagine there's no Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales on opening day rosters. It's easy if you try, considering that none has received an "acceptable" offer so far, which might prompt them all to hold out until after the June draft, when compensation picks won't be attached anymore.

This drastic-sounding strategy is being considered by their representatives, reports Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. If a team doesn't stand to lose a draft pick by signing a player, they probably would be more willing to give him more money — even with a long-term deal — the thinking goes.

Rosenthal appeared to have written his post with outfielder Nelson Cruz also in mind, but Cruz caved and signed a one-year deal for $8 million with the Orioles on Saturday night. There's no way Santana will be doing that, agent Bean Stringfellow said:

Waiting until June "is certainly something we've talked about," Stringfellow said. "Let's put it this way -- the idea of Ervin Santana signing a one-year deal at the dollars that Nelson Cruz got, I can't in any way, shape or form comprehend that for Ervin.

"Once you get past the draft, a lot of teams will be in play with the expanded playoffs. You wouldn't have a draft pick attached. And how many teams are in need of pitching?

"Ervin Santana is a front-line starting pitcher. He will be compensated as such. Whatever it takes to make that happen, we will make it happen, simple as that."

Santana still being unsigned is curious, considering the scarcity of quality among starting pitchers. In the case of Drew (a shortstop) and Morales (a designated hitter), there are only a finite amount of places they can go. They're also clients of Scott Boras, which might have something to do with teams being disagreeable on the players value.

But just about any team could use Santana. He made $13 million for the Royals in 2013, posting a 3.24 ERA in 211 innings. He was pretty much just as good as ace James Shields. But with an adjusted ERA right at league average for his career, teams are within reason to not overspend on Santana.

But Boras has a plan where, he says, everyone wins if the players wait until after the draft to sign long-term deals:

Boras, estimating the value of the comp picks at $3 million to $4 million each, outlined a potential swing of three selections that could help a club benefit by $9 million to $12 million -- money that could be redirected toward a free agent.

Here's how Boras explained it:

A club first would keep its pick for 2014. The free agent would fill a hole, enabling the club to avoid signing a comp free agent -- and losing a pick -- in '15.

The club then could become eligible for another pick by making the free agent a qualifying offer at the end of his contract, assuming that the system does not change when the current CBA expires after the 2016 season.

That's assuming a lot, considering it's not in a player's best interest, or a team's, for him to miss a third or half of a season. Even the amount of camp Santana has missed so far has a chance to hurt him in 2014. Working out on your own just isn't the same as going to spring training. It seems like something that could be particularly tricky with pitchers.

But the agents thinking on the money might be right. If that's overwhelmingly more important than season continuity, then the remaining free agents might just sit it out.

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David Brown edits Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.comand follow him on Twitter!

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