NEW YORK – Baseball's free-agent signing season began Thursday with Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Aramis Ramirez all available in a market far stronger on hitting than starting pitching.
C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt, Edwin Jackson and Hiroki Kuroda topped the list of free-agent starters, while Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell, Francisco Rodriguez and Jonathan Broxton were among the available closers.
With no new collective bargaining agreement, draft-pick compensation remained in force for top free agents ranked according to a statistical formula agreed to in 1981.
Teams have through Nov. 23 to offer salary arbitration to their former players who became free agents, and free agents not offered arbitration can sign after then without costing their new clubs any picks in next June's amateur draft. Among the 166 free agents, there are 21 Type A players and 37 Type Bs.
The possibility of dropping compensation has been discussed in negotiations for a new labor contract if the players' association would agree to a slotting system of fixed signing bonuses for draft picks. But the union has thus far resisted slotting.
The current labor deal runs until Dec. 11.
Pujols is represented by Dan Lozano, who broke off last year from his former colleagues at the Beverly Hills Sports Council. Carlos Beltran has left Scott Boras to be represented by Lozano.
San Francisco, which acquired Beltran from the New York Mets in July, may be interested in signing the outfielder to a deal of about three years.
"There is no negotiation yet," Beltran said in an email to The Associated Press. "I made a decision about switching agents, but it has nothing to do with having (a) better chance of negotiating with anybody, it's just time to make a change. There is no doubt that I will consider coming back to SF."
Thursday was the first day free agents could negotiate with all teams following a four-day exclusive window for their former clubs. Infielder John McDonald became the first of the free agents to sign, agreeing to a $3 million, two-year contract to stay with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Pitcher Chien-Ming Wang and the Washington Nationals have agreed to the terms of a contract, pending a physical, a person familiar with the deal told the AP. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made.
Wang went 4-3 with a 4.04 ERA in 11 starts for Washington. He returned to the majors on July 29, exactly two years after surgery on his right shoulder. Wang twice won 19 games with the New York Yankees.
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley and AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.