Decision day on arbitration eligible players. Tender or non-tender?

Normally, tendering arbitration eligible players is a no-brainer on the deadline day. Today is that day for all MLB teams that will have to formally make decisions on tender/non-tender for 2019 contracts to unsigned players who are not signed to set contracts and this includes arbitration eligible players. The Nationals have seven players who are arbitration eligible, and here are their projected arbitration values via MLBTR: Anthony Rendon – $17.6 million , Tanner Roark – $9.8 million, Trea Turner – $5.3 million, Michael Taylor – $3.2 million. Kyle Barraclough — $1.9 million, Joe Ross – $1.5 million, and Sammy Solis – $900,000. 

The three Nats players who we mentioned early in the off-season as potential non-tenders are Roark, Taylor and Solis. On MLBTR, they name Roark and Solis as possible non-tenders. We have sourced information that the Nationals are planning on retaining Roark and Taylor for now.

The Nationals have a few ways to handle each arbitration player:

  1. Tender
  2. Non-tender
  3. Negotiate a new deal before the November 30th deadline
  4. Negotiate a new deal after November 30th and before an arbitration hearing
  5. Agree to a deal and player stays on the roster beyond March 15th
  6. Agree to a deal and grant the player his unconditional release prior to March 15th and be responsible for one-sixth of the player’s 2019 salary
  7. Trade the player and the new team has to follow all of the same rules for arbitration players as the original team

As you can see, the Nationals have choices with their arbitration eligible players just like they did in 2017 when they released Derek Norris on March 15th of that season and had to eat 1/6th of his $4.2 million salary since the team had agreed to on a one-year deal to avoid an arbitration hearing. The Nationals do not want to eat the 1/6th of Roark’s projected $9.8 million, but if they had to release him they would be on the hook for $1.63 million.

Since the Nationals have not signed any new starting pitchers or another outfielder, they most likely will either attempt to negotiate a new one-year deal with Roark and Taylor before Friday’s deadline or tender a one-year deal binding them either to negotiate a salary or head to an arbitration hearing which would still give them the ability to do #4 through #7 above.

This is an MLBTR update on arbitration-eligible players. It is an interesting week for all teams, and the Dodgers already have released two arbitration-eligible pitchers as they waived right-hander Erik Goeddel and left-hander Zac Rosscup. The Rays released slugger C.J. Cron. The Cubs traded Tommy La Stella who was arb-eligible and the Yankees did the same with Ronald Torreyes who was due only an estimated $900,000. There is a rumor that the Brewers could non-tender Jonathan Schoop. The Phillies waived Justin Bour, and the Marlins waived Derek Dietrich. These moves will keep adding to the depth of the free agent pool, and it could drive down the price of some players like last year.

Today, you will see teams also avoiding arbitration leading up to the deadline by signing players to one-year deals or multi-year deals like the Reds just did with their closer Raisel Iglesias.

Teams can tender arbitration-eligible players and negotiate a 2019 salary at any time before an arbitrator decides, but some teams have a “file-and-trial” approach whereby they will only negotiate with players up to the mid-January deadline to exchange filing figures, and if no 2019 salary is inked by that deadline they will take the case to an arbitrator which is like a trial. Jerry Blevins did that to general manager Mike Rizzo for the fun of it as both sides were close to the same number and after the “trial”, Blevins was traded. Teams do not want to go to arbitration as it is time-consuming to arbitrate while often contentious as the team argues why the player is not worth their asking price, but it happens every year with some teams. The Nationals have done an excellent job since the Blevins fiasco of pre-tendering players or finalizing annual salaries prior to the mid-January deadline.

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