Monday morning musings: non-tenders & other offseason rumblings
The free-agent pool is about to grow, and it will happen instantly at midnight ET tonight as teams must decide by the midnight deadline whether to tender a contract to unsigned players under team control. If they don’t, that player becomes a free agent.
It’s one of baseball’s lesser-publicized but intriguing and sometimes season-changing events, and for a team like the Orioles it could be a very valuable tool. Not all players who are non-tendered have performed poorly, often times they are due to make more money than a team decides they are worth to them.
Remember last season when the Twins were rumored to be non-tendering J.J. Hardy? It never got to that since the Orioles traded for Hardy at last year’s Winter Meetings, but you can see valuable Hardy is in Baltimore. David Ortiz was also non-tendered before landing in Boston.
Ty Wigginton was picked up off the scrap heap by the Orioles in 2008, and John Buck, Kelly Johnson and Matt Capps are all productive players who have been non-tendered by clubs. The Orioles have several non-tender candidates with the most interesting candidate being Luke Scott.
The team would like to bring Scott, who made 6.4 million last season, back at a lesser rate and that’s why non-tendering is their best bet to do that. Scott is coming off season-ending shoulder surgery.
According to baseball’s Basic Agreement, when teams tender contracts, they can’t cut any more than 20 percent of what a player earned in salary and performance bonuses the previous season, or 30 percent of those figures during the past two seasons. Non-tendered players, however, can be re-signed by their teams at larger cuts.
Willie Eyre was a non-tender candidate, but he was designated for assignment to make room for newly acquired arm Dana Eveland. Pitchers Brad Bergesen and Jo-Jo Reyes are also possibilities to not be offered a contract.
On the flip side, it might be a good avenue for the Orioles to explore other pitchers who are non-tendered. Arizona’s Joe Saunders and Washington’s Tom Gorzelanny are interesting names and there should be plenty more (52 players were non-tendered last year) for the Orioles to weigh taking a flyer on.
*I’m mentioning just arms because of all the stats that stood out to me in compiling a season in review, this one was most alarming.
The Orioles were last in the majors in starters’ ERA (5.39), innings pitched (881), quality starts (60), strikeout-walk ratio (1.77) and starters’ pitches per inning (16.9). They were also last in the AL in home runs allowed by starters (134).
It goes without saying that the Orioles need to upgrade the rotation and bullpen in a hurry. Edwin Jackson, Paul Maholm, Saunders, etc. Anyone who will boost the rotation, which undoubtedly put way too much of a workload on an already-depleted bullpen corps. And preferably with arms who are more than a one-year stopgap.
*The only move the Orioles have made in terms of pitching is last week’s trade for Dana Eveland. The 28-year-old Eveland will be arbitration eligible for the first time this winter. He agreed to a Minor League split contract with the Dodgers last November and was only in the bigs for a September callup this season.
*I continue to believe the Orioles are not going to throw large sums of money at a free-agent position player. Do they have interest in Prince Fielder and Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes? Absolutely. But I think the market would have to drop off for them to be in serious play. The only X-factor is if somehow principal owner Peter Angelos decides he has to have one of those players and gives the front office go-ahead to go overboard, similar to the case with Vlad Guerrero last year.
*Here’s the contract info for INF Matt Antonelli: Agreement for Major League contract for $100,000. $450,000 in Majors. Major League invitation to Spring Training.