Love Me Non-Tender Candidates 2008…Part Two
As they leave the bright lights and glitter of Las Vegas tonight, the decisions and the problems of the 30 MLB General Managers and their respective departments are not over. Even if they are flying in luxury accomodations, the GM’s and their staff know that the next 24 hours can also make or break a season by selecting the right players to help the squad in 2009. For tomorrow bring more sticky situations to try and either keep or jettison players who might make a difference in 2009.
So in the morning on this Friday, December 12th, every team in the major leagues must decide to either tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, or set them free as more glut in the 2009 free agent market. And while in past years the non-tendered players weren’t considered to be difference-makers, the list could be more interesting this year. There are several players on this list who either had bad situation on their teams or might have been fighting back from injuries in 2008.
Players who are “tendered” on Friday are considered signed for 2009 at a salary to be determined, not less than 80 percent of his salary the previous season, and both sides continue negotiating. If a deal cannot be struck, the team and the player will each file a proposed 2009 salary in early January. Those figures are exchanged on Jan. 19, and a date for a salary arbitration hearing is then set for Feb. 1-21.
If the sides still cannot come to terms before the date of the hearing, a representative for the team and one for the player present a case before a panel of arbiters, which chooses one salary or the other. On the other hand, if a player is not tendered a contract before Friday’s deadline, he becomes a free agent.
A nationwide economic downturn has affected how Major League Baseball teams are conducting business, and in an effort to cut corners, the number of non-tendered players could increase, based solely on the market’s projected rise in their salaries based on arbitration data and past results.. The same can be said for the quality of those players. Some of the guys being considered for non-tender have been great contributors to their teams in the past, but not during the 2008 season.
Past players non-tendered include David Ortiz, Rick Ankiel, Ryan Franklin, David Eckstein, and Chad Durbin. Usually at least a few useful guys are unearthed. I am going to submit a few names that are being considered to be non-tendered starting at midnight tonight. Some of these names might sign free agent contracts with their old teams, but usually if a player is released from that team, they tend to float to another organization instead of resign with their old clubs.
The Toronto Blue Jays will have to make decision on four of their players on Friday as to if they are being considered as future pieces to the Blue Jays picture in 2009. General manager J.P. Ricciardi said this week that Jason Frasor, Brian Tallet, Brandon League and Jose Bautista are all likely to receive an offer. Ricciardi noted that Frasor, Tallet and League are all in the plans to rejoin Toronto’s bullpen, which led baseball with a 2.94 ERA this past season.
Of the three relievers, Frasor is the most likely to not receive an offer, considering he’s due for a raise after making $1.125 million in 2008 and the Jays are strapped for cash this winter. Last season, the 31-year-old Frasor posted a 4.18 ERA in 49 games for the Blue Jays, serving as a middle reliever. Across 47 1/3 innings, the right hander struck out 42 batters and issued 32 walks. Frasor limited hitters to a .208 batting average, including a .174 mark against right-handed batters.
The 31-year-old Tallet, who earned $640,000 in his first year of arbitration in 2008, established a career best with a 2.88 ERA last season. The left hander appeared in 51 games and registered 47 strikeouts against 22 walks over 56 1/3 innings. Tallet was especially tough on right-handed hitters, holding them to a .230 average.
League, 25, is eligible for arbitration for the first time this off season after making $400,000 in 2008. Last season, the hard-throwing right hander posted a career-best 2.18 ERA out of the bullpen, with 23 strikeouts and 15 walks in 31 appearances. In his 33 innings, League had a 3.71 groundball to flyball ratio and limited right-handed hitters to a .200 average. The Blue Jays acquired the 28-year-old Bautista in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates in late August and the utility man appeared in 21 games for Toronto down the stretch. Overall, Bautista hit .238 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs in 128 games with the Pirates and Jays in ’08, when he earned $1.8 million.
Another ex-Rays has popped up on the non-tender candidates list coming into Friday night’s deadline to offer contracts to arbitration eligible players. The Braves aren’t sure exactly how Matt Diaz fits into their plans for the 2009 season, but the veteran outfielder can at least feel good about the fact that he seemingly fits into these plans.
Among the group of Braves who are eligible for arbitration, Diaz, who missed most of this past season because of a torn ligament in his right knee, was seemingly the only candidate to be non-tendered by Friday’s midnight ET deadline. But all indications are that the Braves are looking forward to having a healthy Diaz on their roster. He could platoon in left field or simply provided a reliable right-handed bat off the bench. Diaz, Mike Gonzalez, Casey Kotchman, Jeff Francoeur, Kelly Johnson and Omar Infante are the arbitration-eligible players expected to be tendered contracts by the Braves on Friday.
The Dodgers face a handful of non-tender decisions by Friday night’s deadline, with the focus . Takashi Saito. He is arbitration eligible, but only if the Dodgers tender him a contract. And even though he’s the highest-rated reliever in the National League over the past two years, the club might effectively release Saito, who missed two months with an elbow injury.
Money isn’t the burning issue for the Marlins as they approach the non-tender deadline. If they want, they have the allocation to sign all 10 of their remaining arbitration-eligible players. The team must decide if it wants to retain everyone, or pursue other options.
In all, Florida has 10 arbitration-eligible players who must be either tendered a contract or not. The list includes much of the team’s nucleus: Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, Cody Ross, Jeremy Hermida, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Alfredo Amezaga, Logan Kensing, Joe Nelson and Dallas McPherson. Of the group, the possible non-tenders appear to be Nelson and McPherson.
Uggla, Cantu, Ross, Hermida and Amezaga are position players who will be tendered. Now, the Marlins are continuing to explore possible trades for Hermida. Johnson and Nolasco are the leading candidates to be the Opening Day starter. Kensing and Nelson are right hander relievers.
Baseball’s non-tender deadline should come and go on Friday night without consequence for the Mets, whose arbitration-eligible players will play significant roles on the team in 2009. But the Mets have little reason not to retain their eligible players: Ryan Church, John Maine, Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez and Jeremy Reed.
Church, 30, hit .276 with 12 home runs in 90 games last season, his first with the Mets. He was the team’s most productive hitter until a concussion sidelined him in May and created a series of lingering effects that plagued him for the rest of the season. Church, who agreed to a $2 million contract to avoid arbitration last off season, will enter Spring Training as the starting right fielder.
Maine, 27, is expected to be the third pitcher in a starting rotation that also includes Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey. Coming off right shoulder surgery that prematurely ended his season, Maine will be arbitration-eligible for the first time. Feliciano, 32, produced a 4.05 ERA and two saves last season as one of the Mets’ two primary left-handed relievers. He also avoided arbitration last season by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $1.025 million.
Reed, 27, is the outfielder the Mets received as part of the 12-player trade Wednesday that also landed them Putz. He is expected to assume Endy Chavez’s role as a fourth outfielder.
Sanchez, 29, will begin his second full season since missing a year and a half after two surgeries on his pitching shoulder. General manager Omar Minaya has said publicly that he expects Sanchez to be more successful this season, especially now that the presence of Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz will allow him to pitch earlier in games.
Pitchers Shawn Hill, Scott Olsen and Tim Redding, outfielders Willie Harris and Josh Willingham and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman must be offered contracts by Washington or they will become free agents. Entering the Winter Meetings, the Nationals had to make decisions on seven players, but the club released reliever Jesus Colome on Wednesday.
He appeared in 61 games and had a 4.31 ERA while being used as a setup man last season. As for the rest of the players, Olsen, Redding, Harris, Willingham and Zimmerman most likely will be offered contracts. However, Hill will be a tough decision. He has had elbow problems the past four years in Washington and has pitched in a combined 34 games.
The White Sox are expected to tender contracts to Bobby Jenks and DeWayne Wise prior to Friday night’s 11 p.m. CT deadline for all arbitration-eligible players. This duo stands as the only two arbitration-eligible players on the team’s 40-man roster.
Jenks, 27, could earn 10 times more than his $550,000 salary for 2008 if he goes through the arbitration process, having emerged as one of the game’s steadiest closers. Despite being attached to a great deal of Hot Stove trade talk deemed by general manager Ken Williams as “just rumor and innuendo,” the burly right hander enters the 2009 season as the second-fastest pitcher to reach 100 saves in Major League history. Jenks accomplished this feat in just 187 games, trailing only Kazuhiro Sasaki’s total of 160.
Wise had a rags-to-riches story in 2008. Independent baseball in New Jersey looked to be his season-long vocation, until Minor League director Buddy Bell, who knew Wise from their days together with the Reds, encouraged the White Sox to bring the 30-year-old veteran into Minor League Spring Training.
Wise ended up becoming an outfield starter against primarily right-handed pitchers during the final two weeks of the season, replacing the injured Carlos Quentin, and hit .248 with six home runs, 18 RBIs and nine stolen bases over 57 games. Wise also hit the White Sox first postseason home run in the American League Division Series against the Rays.