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, Matthew Penn covers the NL 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 we start to get deeper into the off-season, one of the first major deadlines on the calendar is the non-tender deadline. By that deadline, which this year was 8 pm on December 2, every player on a 40-man roster with fewer than six years of Major League service time must be offered a contract or “non-tendered” and released into free agency.
In 2020, the Atlanta Braves won the National League East and the Miami Marlins grabbed the division’s second playoff spot, while the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, and Washington Nationals all finished below .500 and missed the playoffs. All five teams seem to be in the hunt to compete for playoff spots in the upcoming season and should be looking to make big splashes this offseason.
Starting with the reigning divisional champs Braves, they non-tendered only one player, OF Adam Duvall. Duvall is coming off a 16 HR season in his third season with the Braves after being traded from the Reds in the middle of the 2018 season. He was projected to earn just under $5 million in arbitration, per MLB Trade Rumors, but with the uncertainty surrounding the DH in the NL, the Braves didn’t feel comfortable offering him a contract. The Braves did sign Johan Camargo, Grant Dayton, and Luke Jackson to 1 year deals earlier in the day. The club announced on Twitter that they also tendered contracts to the remaining unsigned players on their 40-man roster.
Following a surprising playoff berth in 2020, the Marlins will look to continue that success next season. They had nine players to whom they had to decide whether or not to tender a contract. The two players that the Marlins non-tendered were RHPs Ryne Stanek and Jose Urena. Stanek struggled in his stint with the Marlins, posting a 6.03 ERA and 6.21 FIP in 31 games over the past two seasons with them. Urena is an interesting case. He posted consecutive solid 1.2 WAR seasons in 2017-18, but struggled to stay on the field in 2019 and ’20, and when he did pitch, he went 4-13 with a 5.02 FIP. Of the seven remaining players, the Marlins agreed to 1 year deals with INF Jesus Aguilar and INF Garrett Cooper and tendered contracts to all others.
New York Mets
The Mets had the most arbitration eligible players in the majors, with 17. They non-tendered four of those players: RHPs Ariel Jurado, Paul Sewald, and Nick Tropeano and LHP Chasen Shreve. None of Shreve, Jurado or Tropeano played much for the Mets. Shreve pitched in 25 innings, all in 2020, and had 34 strikeouts and 3.99 FIP, Jurado had just one appearance, a 4 inning start against the Orioles, and Tropeano was claimed on waivers from the Pirates just over a month ago. Sewald, on the other hand, had been a staple in the Mets bullpen in recent years, even though he has been a below average pitcher. He pitched in 125 games across 4 season and posted a -1.1 WAR, 5.50 ERA, and 4.04 FIP. The Mets agreed to 1 year contracts with LHP Steven Matz, RHP Jacob Barnes, and OF Guillermo Heredia.
Neither the Phillies nor the Nationals non-tendered any of their players this year. The Phillies agreed to deals with C Andrew Knapp and RHPs Seranthony Dominguez, Hector Neris, and David Hale. Hale was acquired in a midseason trade last year, and Knapp, Dominguez, and Neris are all career Phillies that have received significant playing time, so none of those deals are very surprising. With the big loss of JT Realmuto, Knapp could be the opening day catcher and is almost guaranteed to see more playing time, so it makes sense that the Phillies wanted to lock him up early, signing him to a $1.1 million deal. 1B Rhys Hoskins and RHPs Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez were all offered contracts as well, though no official deal has been announced yet for any of them.
The Nationals had a relatively quiet day, as they only had three total arbitration eligible players. The only player that had any shot of being non-tendered was RHP Joe Ross, who was signed to a 1 year, $1.5 million deal on Tuesday. After opting out of the 2020 season, he is in line to be the #4 or 5 starter in the rotation for the Nats this season. The other two players were SS Trea Turner and OF Juan Soto. While deals haven’t been announced for either of them, there has been a lot of talk floating around about long term extensions for either or both. Soto and Turner provided most of the few bright spots of the Nationals’ 2020 season and both finished in the top 7 of NL MVP voting. They figure to be everyday starters for the foreseeable future if the Nats are able to lock them up.
Outside of the division, OFs Eddie Rosario, David Dahl, and Kyle Schwarber and RHP Archie Bradley are among some of the bigger names that were non-tendered and could potentially wind up providing needed help to an NL East team. Be sure to check out our non-tender recaps of the other divisions for more insight into those transactions.