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PHILADELPHIA -- Free agent Aaron Rowand will almost certainly be offered arbitration by Saturday's 11:59 p.m. ET deadline, a procedural move that guarantees the Phillies a compensatory Draft pick should the center fielder sign with another team.
Rowand is the only Phillies free agent of significance because of his status as a Type A free agent, meaning the Phillies receive the first-round Draft pick of the team that signs him, plus a "sandwich" pick between the first and second rounds. If, however, that team finished with one of the 15 worst records last season, the Phillies will receive that team's sandwich pick.
While teams want the Draft picks, clubs are occasionally leery of offering arbitration because they don't necessarily want that player back and are bound to him if he accepts. The Phillies had this situation with starter Kevin Millwood in 2003, and they ended up paying him $11 million for the 2004 season. This isn't the case with Rowand, as the team would love to have him patrol center field next season, though it is prepared for the alternative.
"Certainly we'd be very happy if Aaron was here," general manager Pat Gillick said. "If he isn't here, we're still going to be happy. We can score enough runs with our offense. We think the guys we have, if Aaron comes up, can score enough runs. At this point, we're not too concerned about it."
If Rowand accepts arbitration by Dec. 7, his 2008 salary would be determined by an arbitrator. He and the Phillies could still work out a multiyear deal by a hearing date -- which would occur in early February -- but his return to Philadelphia would be assured.
Even if Rowand doesn't accept arbitration, he and the Phillies can negotiate as they are now. In the past, a free agent who declined arbitration couldn't return to his most recent former club until May 1 of the following season, but that date no longer applies.
Freddy Garcia is a Type B free agent, meaning the Phillies would receive only a sandwich pick should he sign elsewhere. They'll sacrifice that by not offering him arbitration, a path more attractive than having Garcia accept and receive a raise from the $10 million he earned in 2007.
All the team's other free agents are either Type C free agents or unranked, meaning the Phillies aren't entitled to compensation regardless. Philadelphia could offer arbitration to Kyle Lohse, though he is seeking a multiyear deal. The team has cut ties with Abraham Nunez, Rod Barajas, Tadahito Iguchi, Jose Mesa and Antonio Alfonseca.
The next deadline is Dec. 12, when the Phillies must decide which of their arbitration-eligible players -- with fewer than six years of Major League experience -- to offer contracts to for next season. Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, Julio Mateo and Chris Snelling fall into this group, with Mateo the only player who might be non-tendered.
All of the players will receive raises, with Howard's and Lidge's expected to be significant. Howard, who can't be a free agent until after the 2011 season, will likely discuss the possibility of signing a multiyear contract which would bypass his arbitration years, as Chase Utley, Brett Myers and Pat Burrell did in recent years. Howard had his contract renewed for $900,000.