The Week Ahead: Who will be non-tendered?
Before Meetings next Monday, all eyes on deadline for arbitration-eligible players
The first holiday weekend is over, so even though we still might be picking at turkey trimmings for the next week, baseball will return to the American consciousness on Monday with a full plate.
There's plenty of business to attend to and to possibly drum up in The Week Ahead, and in the offices of the 30 Major League clubs, the computers will be humming and the phone lines will be buzzing as rosters continue to be remodeled as the days count down toward Christmas, New Year's, Spring Training and Opening Day between the D-backs and Dodgers in Sydney, Australia, in late March.
Right away, there are decisions to be made and paperwork to be filled out and sent off.
Monday is Dec. 2, also known as the "tender deadline" date, or, in simpler terms, the last day for teams to offer -- or tender -- contracts to arbitration-eligible players.
This means some very good players might be "non-tendered," or cut loose to become immediate free agents. It could be because their current teams' rosters don't have room for their roles. It could be that the projected payroll sent down by the front office doesn't hold room for said players' projected salaries. It could be the mutual agreement to give a guy a fresh start somewhere else.
Whatever the case, it's always worth watching.
Already, speculation is swirling as to who might be non-tendered, because this list has included some big names in the past. The most famous recent story of that would be the tale of David Ortiz, the left-handed-hitting first baseman/designated hitter-type who just couldn't hit lefties for the Minnesota Twins 11 years ago -- that is, until he was non-tendered, signed to a one-year, $1 million deal in Boston, and helped redefine Red Sox history.
And Big Papi's not the only one with big pop on the non-tender heap. Other players who have been set free in this fashion over the years include Jayson Werth, Edwin Encarnacion, Jonny Gomes, Chris Capuano, Bobby Jenks and many more.
"There are a lot of reasons why a guy might get non-tendered," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "But just like with exploring trades or free agency, you go into it with an open mind. There could be guys waiting to resurface as quality players, or guys who just happen to be the right fit on other clubs. That's one of the challenges of this job."
Speculation on who might be non-tendered this week has seen the names Darwin Barney, Seth Smith, Drew Stubbs, Tommy Hanson and John Axford bandied about.
Regardless of what happens Monday, a slew of much-ballyhooed transactions will be coming ... maybe sooner than later.
The non-tender date is only a week before the major event of the offseason for the Hot Stove set -- the Winter Meetings.
Not every big deal will get done when the Meetings descend upon the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Fla., next Monday, but plenty will, and plenty of stars are still on the free-agent board, waiting to be plucked.
Orlando could very well end up being a particularly Magic Kingdom for Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Beltran, Mike Napoli, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez, the highest-profile names of the remaining free agents.
Other impact position players still available include Stephen Drew, Omar Infante, Justin Morneau, Nelson Cruz, Kendrys Morales, A.J. Pierzynski, Corey Hart, Rafael Furcal, Juan Uribe, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and more.
And while the fate of potential free agent Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka remains up in the air, there are still a lot of other starters out there for the signing, including Bartolo Colon, Hiroki Kuroda, A.J. Burnett, Jason Hammel, Scott Kazmir and Bronson Arroyo.
Veteran closers and late-inning relievers are in abundance, too, with Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Brian Wilson, Jesse Crain, Fernando Rodney and Eric O'Flaherty all ready to be signed.
Any of these players could sign in Orlando or even this week. Or none of them could sign right away and we might only read about monster trades that ratchet up the intensity we've already seen with the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler deal, and most recently, the lower-profile move of David Freese to the Angels by the Cardinals for outfielder Peter Bourjos. That's part of the fun of this time of year.
Also on tap in Orlando will be the announcement of the latest voting results by the Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee, and the Dec. 12 Rule 5 Draft, which is held on the final day of the Winter Meetings. For the bargain-basement price of $50,000, (half of which is refundable if the drafted player is not on the season-opening 25-man roster), astute GMs might just score a player in the mold of Johan Santana, Josh Hamilton or Shane Victorino, all of whom were Rule 5 Draft selections.
For now, dust off the rest of the cherry pie, keep cleaning out the fridge and resume the daily checking of those transaction wires. The real winter has just begun.