(This post will be updated later in the evening, pending result of the A's game).
The final day of the regular season had some significant draft and free-agency implications for quite a few non-playoff teams, including the A's.
The Detroit Tigers' win early Sunday ensured that they would end up with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2011 Draft, having finished with the 15th-best record in MLB. The Tigers finished the season at 81-81, and held a tiebreaker over the A's because the Tigers finished with a superior record the season before (2009). Thus, regardless of the outcome of the A's game Sunday afternoon, when the A's took the field Sunday they were assured of having a protected 2011 first-round draft pick, even if they signed a good free agent such as Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez, Adam Dunn, or Jorge De La Rosa this offseason.
The Tigers' win locked the A's into a draft pick somewhere between No. 14 to No. 18, all of which would be protected.
In other MLB action, the Marlins, Angels, and Dodgers all won as well. This meant that each of those three teams finished the year at 80-82, and all three of them held tiebreakers over the A's, because each of them finished 2009 with a better record than the A's as well.
Thus, if A's were to lose their final game of the year and finished 80-82, they would slide in front of the Marlins, Angels, and Dodgers in the draft order...and they'd even slide in front of Milwaukee's No. 15 overall compensation pick for the Brewers' failure to sign 2010 first-rounder Dylan Covey.
If the A's were to win their final game of the year, then the results of the Marlins, Angels and Dodgers games would all be irrelevant to the A's - the A's would finish a game ahead of each of them in the standings, at 81-81, and thus would clinch second-place in the AL West, and the No. 18 overall pick.
Now, here's how all this affects free agency:
If the Tigers were to sign an elite Type A free agent this offseason - and they'll be looking to upgrade some of the same positions the A's need to - they would now need to give up the No. 19 overall pick in the draft. The Tigers have shown a willingness to do that before - just last year, they forfeited the No. 17 overall pick to sign Type A FA closer Jose Valverde.
But if the A's were to sign an elite Type A free agent, they would not have to give up their No. 18 overall pick - they would instead give up their second-rounder, which will end up being approximately pick No. ~65, because there are typically about 15-20 sandwich picks between the first and the second rounds.
One could argue that this gives the A's a small competitive advantage in free agency this offseason, because it's obviously less of a hit to forfeit the No. 65 overall pick than it is to forfeit the No. 19 overall pick.
My larger point is, this is the A's best window to sign an elite free agent for the next half decade, because this team is on an upswing. Even with the current talent and no additions, this team is likely to finish in the top half of the standings for the next several years, which would mean that their first-round picks would not be protected on the next several future FA markets.