Today is the so-called non-tender deadline in baseball (I love that baseball has so many “deadlines” – must be the former lawyer in me), and teams must decide by 11pm CT whether to tender contracts for 2013 to their arbitration-eligible players. The Cubs have five arbitration-eligible players – Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, James Russell, Luis Valbuena, and Ian Stewart – the first four of whom are relatively certain to be tendered a contract today. From there, the Cubs will work with those guys to try and settle on a deal for 2013, short of actually going to arbitration early next year.
And then there’s third baseman Ian Stewart. I spoke at length earlier this week on the relative merits and demerits of tendering Stewart a contract in this market (or trying to work out a pre-tender deal), so I won’t rehash it here.
I feel like I’m not doing my job if I don’t tell you which way I think the Cubs are leaning on this one, but, given the analysis I did earlier in the week, what once looked like an obvious non-tender doesn’t feel that way to me anymore. I’d say 50.1% they tender/re-sign him before tonight, 49.9% they non-tender him. It’s that close.
We’ll see what happens today. If the Cubs decide to non-tender Stewart, the two sides could continue trying to work out a deal, but Stewart, as a free agent, would be able to negotiate with every other interested team.
Obviously the Cubs aren’t the only club with tender decisions to make, and it will be very interesting to see if any surprise tender/non-tenders are made around the league. They can have a big impact on the free agent market, particularly in the middle tier range where the Cubs are doing most of their shopping. Once those decisions come down, we can discuss the implications of the newest entrants into the free agent pool.