Free agents whose leverage could sink

Potential suitors will have little interest in forfeiting a draft pick to sign Tim Lincecum. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The most notable sign of the market shift in priority change occurred before the July 31 trade deadline, in the eyes of one highly ranked executive.

"There was more conversation about draft picks and signing dollars than there was about actual players," he said.

For example: When Houston traded Bud Norris to the Baltimore Orioles, officials say that their focus was not on minor league prospects or young major league talent. Instead, the deal-breaker was the quality of the competitive-balance draft pick they received, which will increase their 2014 draft budget by $1.65 million.

When the Dodgers made deals, they focused on adding international pool money: In the Carlos Marmol deal, they got the Cubs’ fourth slot, which translates into $209,000 for additional signings.

Teams continue to work to hoard draft picks and signing dollars, like squirrels gathering winter feed -- and this is only the latest sign that the labor agreement negotiated just two years ago is going to have a major impact on veteran free agents.