As expected, the Braves did not offer salary arbitration to free agent Derrek Lee, foregoing any chance of receiving draft compensation in exchange for him signing with another team.
That proposition was too risky for the Braves considering the veteran first baseman is coming off thumb surgery and would have commanded more than $10 million in arbitration. Had Lee accepted and not signed with another team, he would have been difficult to trade, and the Braves have prospect Freddie Freeman ready to take over at first base next season.
The Braves made that gamble and lost in 2003 when Greg Maddux accepted arbitration, made $14 million that year, and forced the Braves to trade Kevin Millwood.
Lee, 35, is a Type A free agent, which means had the Braves offered arbitration and he signed with another team, the Braves would have received that team’s first round draft pick in next year’s draft as well as a supplemental first round pick.
The Braves traded for Lee from the Cubs last August to play first base and give the middle of their lineup a lift over the stretch run. He arrived with lingering back problems and battled a thumb injury shortly after he joined the team. But he still hit .287 with 14 doubles, three homers and 24 RBIs in 39 games for the Braves.
The Braves also declined to offer arbitration to free agents Rick Ankiel, Kyle Farnsworth, Troy Glaus and Eric Hinske before Tuesday’s midnight deadline.