Today is the Tender Deadline – and it’s the whole day, so midnight eastern – which means that teams must “tender” contracts to their unsigned players by today, otherwise those players become free agents. For the most part, we associate this deadline with players eligible for arbitration (generally, guys with between three and six years service time), but it also applies to players with less service time on the 40-man roster. It’s just that it’s rare to see those guys non-tendered today because they don’t stand to make much money if they are tendered (their contract price is set by the team).
Players eligible for arbitration, however, can see their salaries escalate rapidly over the course of the arbitration years – even if they weren’t terribly productive in 2014 – which is why, for some teams and some players, today’s deadline will mark the conclusion of a very thoughtful exercise.
Will that be the case for the Cubs? Mostly no. The Cubs’ arbitration-eligible players are Wesley Wright, Chris Coghlan, Luis Valbuena, Justin Ruggiano, Travis Wood, Pedro Strop, Jake Arrieta, Felix Doubront, John Baker, and Welington Castillo. We discussed Wood yesterday, and he seems like a tender. Wright and Ruggiano might have been closer calls if the Cubs had made other moves in advance of this date or had found that the market was such that they wouldn’t have the value they were expected to get in arbitration – that not being the case, they make sense to tender. John Baker struck me as a likely non-tender, but, given that he won’t make much in arbitration as it is, and given his intangible awesomeness, the Cubs may end up tendering him and then letting him go if they make another move behind the plate and/or need his 40-man roster spot. Everyone else is a no-brainer tender.
For what it’s worth, Carrie Muskat has reported that all 10 arbitration-eligible Cubs are expected to be tendered today. Jesse Rogers separately reported that Wood, specifically, is expected to be tendered. Wood does not surprise me, though Baker is a mild surprise. We’ll see if it actually plays out that way.
… or if some other craziness happens. Keep in mind that, even if a team doesn’t want to keep a particular player, they don’t have to trade him today or lose him entirely. If they believe that player has value at his expected contract, they can tender today, and then try and trade him throughout the rest of the offseason. Thus, today’s deadline may not spark a ton of trade activity.
For today to act as a deadline on a trade, you’d have to have a situation where a team is going to non-tender a player – and everyone knows it – but there is a team or two out there who really want that player and would tender him a contract today. Those teams, then, may want to try and swing a trade today so that they can get the player’s rights before he becomes a free agent tomorrow.
That can and will probably happen with a player or two today, and there could be some other roster-sorting moves. There are also some potential chain reaction situations where other trades or signings looming out there could be triggered by decisions made today. That is all to say that I would expect some activity today, and, while earth-shaking stuff around the game is unlikely, it is not inconceivable.
The most interesting items today, however, will likely be finding out which players have not been tendered and are now free agents. Each year, there are several intriguing players who reach free agency after being non-tendered – for example, just last year, Wesley Wright was not tendered a contract by the Rays, which was something of a surprise, and the Cubs quickly pounced.