Over the off-season, the Pittsburgh Pirates offered Derrek Lee arbitration, only to see the first baseman turn down the offer, which would have guaranteed him at least $8.5 M. Lee has yet to sign with another team, although he also hasn’t officially retired. The Pirates would have received a compensation pick for Lee had he signed a major league deal with another team. That pick has since been written off, although there’s now talk that Lee could sign a deal.
The Milwaukee Brewers saw Prince Fielder depart over the off-season. They replaced Fielder with Mat Gamel, who recently went down for the year with an ACL injury. That opens up a spot at first base, with a lot of rumors saying the Brewers could pursue Lee to fill that void.
The Pirates would get a compensation pick for Lee if he signed with the Brewers prior to the draft. This pick wouldn’t come from the Brewers, so there would be no need to delay the signing on their part. The disclaimer is that Milwaukee would have to sign Lee to a major league deal.
That’s an important disclaimer at this point in the year. Typically, when players are signed at this point, they’re signed to minor league deals. This allows the player to treat the minors as a sort of Spring Training. Eventually the player becomes ready for the majors and the club calls him up. This is currently happening in Tampa Bay’s system with Hideki Matsui. If Lee were to sign a minor league deal, the Pirates wouldn’t receive compensation. If he was added to the major league roster before the draft, the Pirates could lobby for a pick, although that’s not a guarantee. The Red Sox, for example, lost Dan Wheeler on a minor league deal. Wheeler was added by Cleveland to the Opening Day roster. Yet Boston still didn’t get a pick for Wheeler, even though he cracked the majors out of Spring Training.
There’s a small chance that the Pirates could get a pick if Lee signs, but for that to happen, Lee would have to sign a major league deal. He’d have to be in excellent shape to make that happen at this point in the year, and even if he’s in good shape, his swing would have to be up to speed to immediately step in against major league pitching. So even if he does sign, odds are he would sign a minor league deal, making it nearly impossible to get a pick.