Mystery solved. Almost.
The limit, by some sort of special decree is 8 combined A and B free agents.
Why would MLB do that? Removing the caps just makes it more likely that demand (and therefore prices) stay high. Why would you allow the rich teams a chance to spend to their full potential?
The first reason I can think of is that you knew some other force was going to drive prices down.
There are only two forces that have driven down prices in the free agency era. One is economic climate unlike any we've ever seen before. While we're certainly in that climate now, I don't think we quite knew we were there back "early in the free-agency season."
The other force that drives down prices is ownership collusion.
Despite a free agent pool so deep that the normal rules of engagement were suspended, despite a plethora of quality hitters still available at bargain basement prices, despite a bat (Manny) and an arm (Sheets) likely of higher quality than anything that will be available next off-season, we still see no action on the market.