Friday at 8pm EST marks the deadline for teams to tender contracts for the 2018 season, meaning that we’ll see a few difficult calls made on arbitration-eligible players. MLBTR recently compiled a list of the players we feel are most at risk to be non-tendered (with the proviso that many of the names on the list likely will not end up being set free). As ever, anticipated cost is a major factor, so you’ll want to reference the arbitration projections of MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz for a sense of where the salaries could be headed.
Here’s the latest chatter as the decision time draws near …
- Some readers were surprised to see Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer tabbed as a possible non-tender on MLBTR’s list. In our view, his hefty salary (projected at $6.5MM) and the possibility of finding cheaper alternatives combine to create some vulnerability — at least, that is, from an outside examination. The expectation of MLB.com’s Adam Berry, though, is that Pittsburgh will continue to rely on Mercer in his final season of arb eligibility. Berry cites Mercer’s steadiness and the fact that the team’s middle infield prospects aren’t quite ready yet to take over at short.
- The Rays face a number of interesting arbitration decisions even after resolving one by trading Brad Boxberger; Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times runs through the list. The most recent report suggests that Tampa Bay will tender Brad Miller if they don’t trade him on Friday, and Topkin generally concurs with that assessment. While MLBTR feels there’s a chance that shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and catcher Jesus Sucre could be at risk, Topkin says the expectation is they’ll be retained. Rather, he feels the focus could remain on the relief corps, with pitchers Xavier Cedeno, Dan Jennings, and Chase Whitley all being candidates for something other than a straight tender. That could mean a trade, a pre-deadline deal to lock in their salary at a favorable rate, or perhaps a non-tender.
- Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel similarly examines the choices facing the Brewers. Two players that MLBTR identified as plausible non-tender candidates, reliever Jeremy Jeffress and catcher Stephen Vogt, receive similar billing from Haudricourt, as does righty Jared Hughes. Per the article, Milwaukee has “probably been trying to do pre-deadline deals” with the two pen pieces, while Vogt could simply be sent onto the open market.
- For the Cubs, too, the toughest calls may come in the relief department. As Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Times writes, and as MLBTR’s analysis has suggested, Hector Rondon ($6.2MM projection) and Justin Grimm ($2.4MM) may be entering their final day with the Chicago organization. Rondon, especially, could receive trade consideration from other teams if the Cubs decide it’s time to move on.
- Speaking of pen pieces at risk, the Tigers landed two players on our list: righties Bruce Rondon ($1.2MM projection) and Alex Wilson ($2.1MM). Evan Woodberry of MLive.com tweets that both are indeed potential non-tender candidates for Detroit, but both are not necessarily going to be cut loose. In Woodberry’s estimation, the volatile Rondon is somewhat likely to be cut loose after allowing 19 earned runs in his 15 2/3 MLB innings in 2017. Though he continued to show swing-and-miss stuff, and posted a 2.70 ERA in his 36 2/3 frames at Triple-A, Rondon struggled to limit the free passes. As for the 31-year-old Wilson, it’s something of the opposite scenario for Woodberry. He says that he expects Wilson will be tendered despite a middling 4.50 ERA in his most recent season. The veteran did post similar K/BB figures to those that allowed him to generate better results in prior campaigns.
- We drew some ire for suggesting that the Yankees could pass a chance at retaining catcher Austin Romine for his projected $1.2MM salary, but MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch suggests there’s some possibility that could occur. Even if he is not kept on the 40-man roster, says Hoch, Romine could be targeted to return on a minors pact. Of course, he’d also then have a chance to see if he could score a MLB slot with another organization. Romine limped to a .218/.272/.293 slash line in 252 plate appearances last year, but is generally regarded as a solid defender. It seems likely that the decision will come down to a question of whether the Yanks simply think they can do better with youngster Kyle Higashioka or another open-market option to complement regular Gary Sanchez.