Saturday, December 1, 2012


Recently I expounded on the idea of the qualifying offer. Baseball's offseason has so many intricacies, terms, and ideas that even an adept Baseball fan may not understand. The qualifying offer being one such term, and non-tendering being another. Recently teams made public the names of players that would be non-tendered, thus ending the relationship between the given team and those players, effectively making those players free agents.

Tendering a contract literally means offering a contract. So, a team that offers Zack Greinke, a free agent this offseason, a contract could be tendering him a contract. Players who have played out the first few years of their original contract (the one the player signed when drafted) become arbitration eligible. Essentially, in order to attempt to properly compensate young players who find themselves still years away from free agency, MLB put in a system in which the player and team present information to a third party who decided what that player's contract will be for the next season. It is done on a season-to-season basis, and some players can go through 4 years worth of arbitration before becoming eligible for free agency. Any player who is arbitration eligible must be tendered a contract by a specific date, which happens to be December 2nd this year. Any arbitration eligible player not tendered a contract becomes a free agent. Arbitration can be an expensive process for teams. Especially when a previously productive player is coming off of a less productive season because that player will most likely make more money in arbitration, due to his past performance. A team might want to retain that player, but not at the expected arbitration salary, so the team non-tenders the player, allowing him to become a free agent, then offer him a separate deal for less money.

The process can be complicated, especially given the fact that the arbitration process has many flaws incorporated into it. Since it is complicated, here is a simple rule. Teams non-tender players when the team would rather risk losing the player to another team than possibly pay them an exorbitant amount of money through arbitration.

Non-tendering a player can prove fruitful or fruitless. Sometimes the player in question will sign with another club and perform very well whereas other times non-tendering a player can be the best way to dump a declining or injury-prone player. Some names that came out on the non-tender list this offseason include John Lannan, Mark Reynolds, Ian Stewart, Jair Jurrjens, Jeff Karstans, and Brian Wilson. The common themes amongst these players are injuries, Karstans, Wilson, and Jurrjens, and declines in productivity, Lannan and Sterwart. If you want a more comprehensive list, and way to track players who have been non-tendered, tendered, et cetera, check out MLBtraderumors page here.

John Lannan
Where might some of these non-tendered players wind up? Between 2008-2011 John Lannan averaged 1.3 fwins (stands for fWAR), which is worth between $6-7 million on this years free agent market. Lannan was set to make about $5.5 million dollars in arbitration. The Nationals don't need Lannan in their rotation, and would rather use that money to fill a void elsewhere on the team. Between 08' and 11', Lannan was incredibly consistent, putting up FIPs between 4.20 and 4.80, BB % around 8%, and most importantly the 13th best ground ball percentage in the league. Lannan strikes out very few hitters, but makes up for his lack of swing-and-miss ability with pitches that cause lots of ground balls. Lannan throws four pitchers, a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. According to pitch f/x data, his changeup and curveball are solid to above average pitches, causing the ground balls, while Lannan's fastball and slider leave something to be desired. Combine Lannan with a good infield defense, and he could be worth anywhere from 1 win to 3 wins. Any team hoping to find a more suitable fifth starter should take a serious look at John Lannan. The Toronto Blue Jays, Philadelphia Phillies, and San Diego Padres could all be solid destinations for Lannan. Toronto has been rumored to be looking for an upgrade for J.A. Happ, while the Phillies might want a more experienced pitcher than Tyler Cloyd, and the Padres could turn Lannan into a great trade piece at the trade deadline.

Brian Wilson, known as "The Beard", put up a few productive years out of the San Francisco bullpen. With Sergio Romo taking his spot in the back end of the Giants bullpen, combined with Wilson's recent Tommy John surgery made Wilson an obvious non-tender candidate. Wilson is very valuable, but not in the typical way. Any team with money that is in need of a veteran cog in the bullpen could take a chance on Wilson, given his low cost, and Wilson's desire to prove himself. A team that might not be in contention next season could look to sign Wilson in order to flip him for prospects at the trade deadline in July. According to PECOTA, Wilson could be worth one WARP per season for the next three years. Any team that can sign Wilson to a one-year deal worth no more than $6 million could end up with a solid bargain. Look for the big clubs like Boston, Baltimore, Los Angeles (both LA teams), and Detroit to take a chance on Wilson.

Mark Reynolds
Finally, there's Mark Reynolds. Reynolds hit some big home runs for the Orioles last season, but with arbitration money in the realm of $10 million or more coming to him, the Orioles wisely non-tendered Reynolds. The issue with Reynolds isn't his incredibly high strikeout totals, but finding him a place to play. Reynolds rarely plays good defense at third base, his original position, and is below average at first base. Obviously, the American League offers an alternative to this, the designated hitter, but there are only 15 DH spots in the majors. The most logical spot would be Houston, a team moving from the NL to the AL, and thus in need of a designated hitter. On the other hand, it isn't difficult to find a hitter with pop who can't play defense, so instead of spending money on Reynolds, the obvious solution is to put a prospect in the DH role who costs far less money. Reynolds might be a possibility for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays need a first baseman, and are not shy to put a home run hitter who strikes out often in that spot. Also, the Rays could DH Reynolds to take away from him negatively affecting their infield defense. Some team will take a chance on Reynolds, his power is undeniable, but whichever team does, would never have gotten that chance had the non-tender rule not been in place.

Now that you have a full understanding of non-tendering, when this time comes about next season you might be able to point to specific players who make good non-tender candidates and other that don't. Remember, oftentimes the most important pieces to a 25-man roster can come from the most remote of places, like the jungle of non-tendered players.

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