● Brewers general manager Doug Melvin has reiterated his skepticism that Milwaukee will manage to bring back free-agent right-hander Ben Sheets, recounting that his agent, Casey Close, was not remotely interested in an incentive-laden one-year deal -- such as the ones Brad Penny and John Smoltz ultimately nabbed from the Red Sox -- for his client when approached about the possibility several weeks; Melvin and Close have reportedly not spoken since.
● On a somewhat related note, Major League Baseball confirmed on Thursday evening that the Yankees could not have signed Sheets even if they had wanted to, since the signings of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira exhausted their three-player quota of Type A or Type B free agents according to the current version of the collective bargaining agreement (which doesn't expire until December 31st, 2011):
All three were Type A free agents who played for other teams last season aside from the Yankees. The Yankees could re-sign their own Type A or Type B free agents without it affecting the quota.
Under the rules, "if there are from 39 to 62 [Type A and B] players [during a given offseason], no team can sign more than three."
[...] According to an unofficial list compiled by the Sports City Sports News Service, this year there were 63 Type A and Type B free agents -- 29 Type As and 34 of the Type B variety. A Type A player is one who's ranked among the top 20 percent of his group -- pitcher or position player. A Type B player is among the top 40 percent.
Most had assumed that the presence of this line in the CBA -- "If there are more than 62 such players, the club quota shall be increased accordingly" -- would equate to an automatic expansion of the quota; however, Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president of labor relations, informed MLB.com that because the Yankees did not approach the league about potentially adding a fourth Type A or Type B player, the quota remained static.
That, if anything, should indicate just how vague the Yankees' interest was in Sheets all along. One can only presume that more serious dialogue between the two sides would have prompted New York to make immediate contact with the league in order to sort out the quota issue -- which Yankees general manager Brian Cashman certainly knew about -- and clear the path to his potential signing of any remaining obstructions. None of that happened.
[12:50 P.M. Update: MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom, the author of the article linked above, has apparently retracted the assertion that the Yankees can sign no more Type A or Type B free agents. A top baseball official informed Bloom this morning that an exemption was granted and that the Yankees could sign additional ranked players, all of which seemingly flies in the face of what Manfred himself told Bloom.
Very, very bizarre, and my apologies for disseminating inaccurate information. I suppose I will have to exercise more caution the next time Bloom publishes such an eye-opening revelation, because there will apparently be a better-than-zero chance that he'll promptly retract it.]
● FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal makes the case for Sheets scorning his few half-hearted suitors and retaining his free-agent status until attrition-weary contenders looking for summer mercenaries come a-callin':
Sheets, 30, would be far more attractive, a potential No. 1 starter in waiting. Imagine the frenzy if he was unable to get the deal he wanted and remained available at mid-season. Teams concerned about his history of arm trouble might actually prefer him for only 15 or 20 starts.
The question is whether Sheets would embrace a hired-gun concept in the prime of his career. Only a confident, tough-minded player would risk starting the season without a contract.
It's a dangerous strategy to employ, albeit one that Roger Clemens quite successfully leveraged to his financial gain in 2007 when he extracted a one-year, $28 million deal out of the Yankees (which actually paid him a pro-rated sum of approximately $17.4 million, the result of him not throwing a major league pitch until June 9th). The overriding question, however, is whether Sheets would be amenable to such a radical proposition, or whether he would actually subject himself to such risk.
● And finally, because this humble sector of the Texas Rangers blogosphere has always been about looking forward (well, most of the time anyway), predict in the comments section the day (i.e. February 4th) and time (i.e. 11:30 p.m. -- all times will be assumed to be Central Standard Time) that the news of Sheets reaching an agreement will leak onto the Internet, as well as the team with whom he will sign.
Whoever comes the closest to correctly guessing all three components -- which will be prioritized by team, date and time, in that order -- will win ... well, the undying adulation and respect of his or her peers, and maybe something from the BBTiA treasure chest. We'll get back to you on that one.