Explaining Non-Tenders

Russell MartinAlfredo Aceves and Joel Peralta were all non-tendered last offseason. One year later, we’re well on our way to welcoming another class of non-tenders to the club. It can be a confusing kind of transaction, so here’s an explanation of what exactly a non-tender is.

To tender a player a contract is to offer a contract, but non-tenders refer to a specific kind of offer: offers of arbitration. Rules and precedent shape the kind of salary a player can expect through arbitration, so players under team control usually get raises through the process. 

For example, Jacoby Ellsbury isn’t eligible for free agency yet, but he and agent Scott Boras have some say in his future earnings. If the Red Sox offered Ellsbury $3MM in arbitration this offseason, Boras and Ellsbury could counter with a $10MM submission and win. Arbitration can be expensive for teams, since a player’s salary depends on his previous earnings and comparable players.

Players generally earn $400K or so for their first few major league seasons, so they’re usually relatively cheap in their first arbitration seasons. But players entering their second, third or (for super twos) fourth arbitration seasons stand to make more money if they’re tendered an offer. 

If an arbitration eligible player hasn’t performed well and projects to earn a considerable amount, his team will likely consider a non-tender to save money and preserve roster flexibility. That means they have turned down the option to negotiate a contract with that player through arbitration, but it doesn’t mean the player’s going to sign elsewhere.

Left-handers Hideki Okajima and Andrew Miller both re-signed with the Red Sox after Boston non-tendered them last winter. The Red Sox signed the pair of pitchers for less guaranteed money, but only after they risked losing them to rival teams. (After a player is non-tendered he hits free agency and can sign anywhere.)

It’s complicated, but here’s what you need to know: teams non-tender players when they would rather risk losing them to another team than go through the potentially expensive arbitration process.

MLBTR first published a modified version of this post by Ben Nicholson-Smith in September 2010.

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8 Comments on "Explaining Non-Tenders"

3 years 10 months ago

I am a fan of these types of posts.  It is nice to explain all the complicated aspects of the game for fans who may wonder what it all means.

3 years 10 months ago

Glad they help!

3 years 10 months ago

Non-Tenders = Tough Nuggies

3 years 10 months ago

first to be non-tendered. jeff mathis!!!

3 years 10 months ago

Thanks for the post Ben.

As for those top 3 you mentioned who played a important part in playoff chases.. I see Martin and Aces as really contributing beyond this year, but all 3 were super. Aces was the glue in Boston’s BP this year and just where exactly would the NYY have been behind the plate without martin?

Red Sox fans had better be thinking of Scott Atchisson as the alternate swing guy, even though I personally like him as the reliever who would have gotten the bulk of the work had Aces not been injury free. he probably was the most valuable guy in the entire pen, Papelbon included with his ability to go 1-5 innings (counting his starts) and some may have overlooked him.

3 years 10 months ago

It would be a shame if the Tigers non-tender Delmon Young and he were to end up on a rival team.

Oh wait…

3 years 10 months ago

Aren’t some of the players who are non-tendered not yet arbitration eligible? For example, Chris Carter was on the non-tender list last year and, with less than a year in the majors, he was not arbitration eligible. The Mets were preparing their 40-man roster for the Rule 5 Draft and just weren’t interested in keeping him in the minors by outrighting him to AAA. Teams non-tender guys without tenure for arbitration to clear spots on the 40-man roster for free agents and guys they want to protect in the Rule 5 Draft. Someone else raised this in the comments to the original version of this article a year ago: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2010/09/explaining-non-tenders.html. Otherwise, this is a good article and the kind of added resource that makes this such a valuable site.

3 years 10 months ago

Instead of non-tendering a player, is it possible for their salary to be reduced in arbitration?? Is there a rule against it or is this just one of those things that never happens because it’s not something I’ve ever seen happen.