GENTLEMEN......START YOUR ENGINES!!

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The countdown is on.....business is about to pick up in the world of free agency!! Teams have until midnight (EST) to offer arbitration to any of the Type A or B free agents in order to get compensation draft picks if they sign elsewhere, and also to offer arbitration to players not under contract and not eligible for free agency.

Once offered arbitration, players have until December 7th to accept or decline the offer.

Not so coincidentally, the winter meetings begin on December 8th....the day after all of the arbitration matters sort themselves out. Teams will know who has accepted the offer of arbitration and thus will be back with the team, and who is certain to leave.

The horrible economy is making things quite interesting this year. Players may be willing to accept one year deals with their old team, putting off a long-term deal until next season when the economy hopefully will be better and the market a bit looser.

Typically, not many ranked free agents are offered arbitration, and even fewer actually accept the arbitration. Last year, 17 ranked free agents were offered arbitration and only 3 accepted. The year before, there were 25 ranked free agents and only 2 accepted.

This year, there are 60 ranked free agents. There may be a high number offered arbitration and a significant number who accept and ride out the bad economy. In Kerry Wood's case, he has the economy and the number of closers on the market working against him.

Kerry is probably the only ranked free agent the Cubs will offer arbitration to. Jim Edmonds, Daryl Ward and Bob Howry are unlikely to be offered arbitration because the Cubs do not want to risk them accepting.

As for the Cubs players not under contract and eligible for arbitration, I would expect most, if not all, of them to have it offered. The list includes shortstop Ronny Cedeno, outfielder Reed Johnson, and pitchers Neal Cotts, Chad Gaudin, Kevin Gregg and Michael Wuertz.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out for the Cubs, as well as the other teams.