Dan Wheeler signed with the Cleveland Indians yesterday, a move that should have netted the Red Sox a draft pick. Wheeler was a Type-B free agent in the last off-season that those will exist -- the new collective bargaining agreement eliminates the Elias Rankings, and revamps the compensation system. Since it was only Type-B status and not Type-A, there was no penalty lined up (meaning no lost draft picks) for whoever inked him to a deal, just the bonus pick to the team who lost him.
Despite this, the Indians signed Wheeler to a minor league deal only, costing the Red Sox a potential extra pick in the 2012 amateur entry draft, as well as $950,000 in potential cap room for the draft. Compensation doesn't apply to minor league deals, a fact that makes sense on the surface, but is no less annoying when you're a fan of the team who lost the player.
Wheeler was offered arbitration by the Red Sox after his option was declined, even though arbitration would have represented a raise. It's likely there was a gentleman's agreement between the two parties that arbitration would be rejected, so that Boston could recoup this pick. Cleveland has stepped right in the way of that.
This happened to the Red Sox with Felipe Lopez in 2010. Lopez was acquired at the very end of the season, and should have been, if nothing else, an extra compensatory pick for the Red Sox in the 2011 draft. The Rays signed him to a minor league deal, though, basically robbing Boston of their own little draft trick.
There is one way the Red Sox can still get a pick, though: if the Indians put Wheeler on their Opening Day roster, Boston can petition the commissioner's office for a draft pick, since at that point it looks like Cleveland was just tiptoeing around the rules. Given the Indians' pen isn't the greatest in the world, and Wheeler is still a useful piece, this is a likely scenario, but not guaranteed. It doesn't take much roster shuffling to delay Wheeler's 2012 MLB debut by a few days.
Personally, I'm curious about what caused Wheeler's stock to fall this far. After his injury in early 2011, he was very productive during the 39 innings that he was let out of his cage, and now it took him until late-January to find work, when his agent has been actively calling teams about him for at least a month.