D.J. Short

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Non-Tender Tango

Monday, November 26, 2012


November 30 is the deadline for teams to decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players on their 40-man roster. With that in mind, here is the second of two articles focusing on some potential non-tender candidates and the possible fallout for 2013. You can read part one here.

Mike Pelfrey SP, Mets

Pelfrey is perhaps the biggest no-brainer out of the 12 players I have profiled, as he is coming off a season where he was limited to just three starts prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery in early May. The 28-year-old right-hander earned $5.6875 million in 2012 and would likely make around the same salary if he goes through the arbitration process this winter, so the Mets are expected to cut him loose. Pelfrey's agent, Scott Boras, will likely look for an incentive-laden deal in a situation where he'll be able to join a major league rotation once he's ready to contribute in the early part of 2013. The Mets have expressed interest in bringing him back, but they won't have room for him in their rotation unless they end up trading R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese or Dillon Gee. He'd make some sense for the Twins, who offer a favorable home environment and need plenty of rotation help.

Geovany Soto C, Rangers

It wasn't too long ago that Soto was considered a top-10 fantasy catcher, but he's now on the verge of being non-tendered. The 29-year-old backstop batted just .198/.270/.343 with 11 homers and a .613 OPS in 99 games this past season between the Cubs and Rangers and it would be a gamble to bring him back at the $4-5 million he figures to make in arbitration. There's still some pop in his bat and he's a capable defender behind the plate, but with a .211 batting average and a .673 OPS against right-handed pitching over the past four seasons, it's pretty clear that he would be best utilized on the short side of a platoon. The Mets inquired about Soto back in July and they are still looking for someone to pair with Josh Thole, so he could be a pretty decent fit if the Rangers end up letting him go.

Ian Stewart 3B, Cubs

The Cubs bought low on Stewart when they acquired him from the Rockies last December, but his 2012 season was a bust. With his power sapped due to a nagging left wrist injury, the 27-year-old batted just .201/.292/.335 with five homers and a .627 OPS in 202 plate appearances before opting for season-ending surgery in July. The Cubs will have to rely on the word of their doctors before they decide whether it's worth giving him a raise from the $2.24 million salary he made in 2012. Josh Vitters really struggled in his first taste of the big leagues this season while Luis Valbuena is the likely in-house alternative at third base, so there's a pretty decent case to be made for Stewart to stick around. If he rebounds, he'll still be under team control for 2014.

Jeff Karstens SP, Pirates

It's not going to be a popular move with the fan base, but reports out of Pittsburgh suggest that Karstens is likely to be non-tendered before Friday's deadline. The 30-year-old right-hander was limited to just 90 2/3 innings this past season due to shoulder and hip injuries, but he posted a 3.97 ERA to go along with an efficient 66/15 K/BB ratio. Karstens had a 3.38 ERA in 162 1/3 innings in 2011, so he has pitched well when healthy, but the Pirates appear hesitant to commit roughly $4-5 million to someone who hasn't proven that he can keep up with the rigors of a full season. Plenty of teams will be willing to take the chance, though. In fact, someone could step up with a trade offer in hopes of getting him before he hits free agency. In this market, a one-year, $4-5 million deal looks like a pretty decent value for a pitcher like Karstens. If only the Pirates could see it that way.  

Nate Schierholtz OF, Phillies

Schierholtz was acquired from the Giants in July as part of the Hunter Pence trade, but there's been some chatter that the Phillies could go the non-tender route rather than give him a raise from the $1.3 million salary he made in 2012. The 28-year-old owns a .270/.319/.409 lifetime batting line to go along with a .727 OPS, which doesn't exactly blow you away, but his contributions on defense and on the basepaths render him a pretty palatable option as a part-time player or fourth outfielder. While a non-tender is possible, I think it makes sense for the Phillies to keep him around as a platoon partner for John Mayberry, Jr. in right field while giving Domonic Brown the chance to sink-or-swim in left field. They should be able to find their center fielder in free agency.

Brian Wilson RP, Giants

The Giants are faced with an interesting conundrum involving Wilson, who is coming off his second Tommy John surgery. While the bearded closer has racked up 171 saves during his time with the club and remains a fan favorite, it's tough to justify bring him back for the roughly $8-9 million he could make in his final year of arbitration. Yes, there's something to be said for sentimentality, but Wilson is no sure thing to be ready for the start of the 2013 season and the Giants' bullpen is already plenty expensive. It's definitely possible the Giants could bring him back on an incentive-laden deal after he hits free agency, but depending upon whether the club plans to keep Sergio Romo in the closer role, there could be more appealing situations for him elsewhere.



D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
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