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2020 Non-Tender Deadline Recap: AL West

Yesterday, December 2nd, marked one of the most consequential deadlines in MLB: the non-tender deadline. This year was equally important, if not more, as we saw a flurry of non-tender moves that wasn’t quite like any year we’ve seen before. As such, we’re doing a series of articles to cover every move made by each team leading up to the non-tender deadline. In this article, Matt O’Halloran covers the AL East.

For those who are new to this process, here is a short explanation of the significance of the non-tender deadline. Players who have not yet exceeded six years of Major League service time (time spent on a Major League roster) remain under team control with the team for whom they played in 2020. In a player’s first three years of service time, he is owed the league minimum salary by his team. In the three years after that, he is eligible for arbitration, meaning that he and his team must either agree to a salary for the next season or, if they cannot come to an agreement, each submit their desired salary figure to an arbitrator who settles the player’s contract for the upcoming season. Regardless of whether a player is in his arbitration or pre-arbitration years, his team must first decide to tender him a contract for the coming season. If a player’s team does not tender him a contract, he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The deadline to tender contracts for this process was yesterday. The majority of players here who were tendered do not yet have a salary decided for 2021, but those who have a salary figure have already signed a contract. The players listed as non-tenders are now unrestricted free agents.

As teams approached the deadline for tendering contracts to arbitration-eligible players, we expected to see teams cutting their budgets following a drop in revenues related to the pandemic. While all seasons see the occasional players non-tendered, teams looking for cheaper options could well cut ties with players expected to make more money via arbitration, especially in cases where a player may have not quite lived up to that salary recently. In some cases, teams moved pre-emptively to waive these players, opening up a roster spot prior to locking in rosters for the Rule 5 draft: for example, the Astros waived Roberto Osuna following the season’s close, rather than non-tendering a player unlikely to pitch this season.

Here’s where each team stands heading into the arbitration portion of the offseason:


Angels

Agreed to contracts: None

Offered arbitration:

  • Max Stassi
  • Shohei Ohtani
  • Mike Mayers
  • Felix Pena
  • Noe Ramirez
  • Dylan Bundy
  • Andrew Heaney

Non-tendered:

  • Keynan Middleton
  • Justin Anderson
  • Hansel Robles
  • Matt Andriese

Here we can see the first victims of the coming budget cuts: middle relievers. Middleton and Robles offered average to low-average relief, but Andriese actually provided some key innings at a reasonable rate. Anderson underwent Tommy John surgery in July and could be a candidate to re-sign at a lower rate with the team.


Astros

Agreed to contracts: Austin Pruitt – 1 year, $617,500

Offered arbitration:

  • Carlos Correa
  • Lance McCullers Jr.
  • Aledmys Diaz

Non-tendered: None

The Astros entered with three no-brainer tenders and one case of a pitcher coming off injury; agreeing to a barely above-minimum contract with Pruitt seemed the best solution for both sides.


Athletics

Agreed to contracts:

  • Matt Olson – 1 year, $5M
  • Tony Kemp – 1 year, $1.05M
  • Chad Pinner – 1 year, $2.275M
  • Burch Smith – 1 year, $705K

Offered arbitration:

  • Matt Chapman
  • Mark Canha
  • Lou Trivino
  • Frankie Montas
  • Sean Manaea
  • Chris Bassitt

Non-tendered: None

The A’s have a strong core of young players, reflected in the number of arbitration cases they entered the season with. The only moderate surprise among this group was to agree to terms with Tony Kemp, who simply hasn’t hit at all since leaving Houston; his defensive versatility probably proved decisive in keeping him at a low price. Oakland did move more aggressively to agree to terms with players prior to the deadline, and will likely continue this trend to avoid going to actual arbitration with the rest of these players.


Mariners

Agreed to contracts: None

Offered arbitration:

  • Mitch Haniger
  • J.P. Crawford
  • Tom Murphy

Non-tendered: None

All three of these players absolutely had to receive offers, and all three have significant years of club control remaining. Really the right situation for a rebuilding team like Seattle.


Rangers

Agreed to contracts: None

Offered arbitration:

  • Isiah Kiner-Falefa
  • Joey Gallo
  • Rafael Montero

Non-tendered:

  • Danny Santana
  • Scott Heineman
  • Jimmy Herget

How does a career .260/.319/.351 hitter get an arbitration offer? When he has a name as unique as Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and the team decides to make him their full-time starting shortstop. Hey, you’re the worst team in the American League. He’s been a superior defensive player. Might as well give it a try.

Danny Santana had to see the writing on the wall after posting an amazing .145/.238/.273 line for 2020, especially as a 30 year old first baseman/outfielder. Ditto Scott Heineman, except he’s a 28 year old first baseman/outfielder. In this situation, why continue giving at-bats to such players when you can try someone who could actually develop?


In all, the AL West kept most all of their talent, with no real situations of “decent player, but too expensive” showing up outside of Anaheim. The bigger questions will show up as these teams approach arbitration hearings and try to agree to terms with players whose values in arbitration will likely exceed what they could actually earn in a depressed free agent market.

Michael Shopoff

Part-time writer, full-time dad. Unapologetic Astros fan. Please don’t do “Houston, we have a problem” - we can all do better!

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