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, Ryan Ruhde covers the AL Central.
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.
Chicago White Sox
- RP Carlos Rodon
- OF Nomar Mazara
- RP Jace Fry: 1 year/$862,000
The White Sox roster moves around the deadline were largely expected, as the team cut ties with the struggling Rodon and Mazara. Among arbitration eligible players, there were hardly any surprises, with the team keeping Lopez and Engel around as depth pieces. There is some chatter about a Giolito extension which may preclude his arbitration, but for now his 2021 salary will be determined by the arbitration process unless another agreement is reached beforehand.
There are hardly any surprises here for the Indians, with the non-tenders of Naquin and DeShields being the only moderate surprises after neither performed well in 2020. DeShields was notably part of their trade return for former Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber, leaving Emmanuel Clase as the only remaining part of the return for Kluber. The Indians held on to Hedges and Lindor for now, though Lindor remains one of the hottest players on the trade market for this offseason.
The Tigers had perhaps the least notable non-tender deadline of MLB’s 30 teams, tendering a contract to all eligible players and making no other signings or moves.
Kansas City Royals
- SP Mike Minor, 2 years/$18M, $13M club option for 2023 with $1M buyout
- OF Michael A. Taylor, 1 year/$1.5M
- SP Jakob Junis, 1 year/$1.7M
- OF/DH Jorge Soler: 1 year/$8.05M
- 1B/3B Hunter Dozier: 1 year/$2.72M
- OF Franchy Cordero: 1 year/$800,000
- RP Jesse Hahn: 1 year/$1.75M
In contrast, the Royals had the most active non-tender deadline of MLB’s 30 teams, with the 2021 roster already looking drastically different than it did even two days ago. The Royals had the most non-tenders in baseball with six, in addition to the signings of Minor and Taylor. Minor is a starting pitching acquisition which the Royals are hoping will boost their rotation considerably, and Taylor is a solid outfield depth piece who should not get a starting role. The most notable transaction here is the non-tender of Maikel Franco a year after the Royals signed him on the heels of his being non-tendered by the Phillies, and this is a move that is somewhat inexplicable. Franco was productive in his one year with the Royals and would have justified his contract, which was estimated to be anywhere between $4.5-8M for 2021. The team will likely look to divert that money elsewhere now, but they will lose one of their better offensive players from 2020. Barring further free agent acquisitions, the payroll is now mostly set for 2021, with only Keller and Mondesi awaiting salary figures from the arbitration process should they fail to come to an agreement with the team before then.
- OF Eddie Rosario
- RP Matt Wisler
- C Mitch Garver: 1 year/$1.875M
- CF Byron Buxton: 1 year/$5.125M
- RP Caleb Thielbar: 1 year/$700,000
- RP Tyler Duffey: 1 year/$2.2M
- SP Jose Berrios: 1 year/$6.1M
Like the Royals, the Twins have most of their budget for 2021 decided, having already come to terms with all but one of their arbitration eligible players. The most notable transaction here is the non-tender of Eddie Rosario, who immediately becomes one of the more sought after free agents in baseball with a consistently solid bat that was good for 32 HR in 2019.