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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

November 6, 2009 at 1:24 PM

Mariners will likely avoid non-tender madness

UPDATE 4:07 P.M.: The union just released the list of players that filed for free agency today. Erik Bedard, Endy Chavez and Miguel Batista were among the 39 players to do so, joining Adrian Beltre and Mike Sweeney from yesterday. So far, 118 players have filed. The only eligible Mariners not to file are Ken Griffey Jr. and Russ Branyan — not coincidentally, the two Mariners most likely to re-sign before hitting the open market.

Buster Olney of ESPN wrote recently of the likelihood that the free-agent market this winter will be flooded in December with “non-tenders”; that is to say, arbitration-eligible players deemed too expensive by their team will not be offered, or “tendered”, contracts, thus making them free agents.

The date for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players is Dec. 12 — two days after the winter meetings conclude in Indianapolis. That timing could potentially put a damper on free-agent signings or trading at the meetings, because of the possibility that a new group of players will soon be available for perusal. Olney listed Garret Atkins of Colorado and Bobby Jenks of the White Sox as examples of established players that might be in line to make so much in arbitration that they are simply non-tendered by their team.

Buster also suggested that 1) those non-tender candidates will be offered for trade by their teams (thus making it possible that the winter meetings, rather than being stalled by this trend, will actually be energized). This has already begun to come true, as Mark Teahen, J.J. Hardy, Carlos Gomez and Jeremy Hermida have already been dealt in the last week or so. All were non-tender candidates.

And 2) he predicted that agents with arbitration-eligible players “will be more open to negotiating contracts in November and early December rather than seeing their players dumped out into a free-agent market that might have as many as 300 veterans.

The Mariners, however, don’t appear to have too much to worry about when it comes to non-tenders.

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Here are their arbitration-eligible players:

1) Felix Hernandez. The Mariners will non-tender Felix the same day that I become King of England.

2) Franklin Gutierrez. The Mariners will non-tender Gutierrez the same day I become Queen of England (keep your snark to yourself, please; btw, that’s Queen Elizabeth II above at Buckingham Palace yesterday with the president of Brazil; above Her Highness is William the Conqueror . Bill, as I like to call him, was King of England from 1066 until his death in 1087. No one rocks the missing-triangle beard like W-Conq).

3) David Aardsma. Aardsma emerged in 2009 as a quality closer; with a $419,000 salary in ’09, he stands to get a substantial raise, but certainly nothing that would make the Mariners want to cut loose such a valuable commodity.

4) Mark Lowe. Lowe made $418,000 this past year, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Again, I just don’t see Lowe, while coming off a pretty solid year as Aardsma’s prime setup man, getting enough of a bump via arbitration to justify cutting him. Lowe is a guy that could be dangled as a trade chip, however.

5) Ryan Langerhans. I don’t have his exact salary, but I’m sure it was in the $500,000 range. If the Mariners want him back, they’ll likely work out a deal, and if not, they won’t tender him, but it won’t be because of money issues.

Just as an aside, the Mariners have three players that will come close to being eligible for arbitration, but probably won’t quite make it. Those pre-arbitration players are pretty much at the whim of the team when it comes to contracts, so not qualifying as a “Super Two” arbitration-eligible player* costs a considerable amount of money.

(*Here’s the definitition of “Super Two” from the Major League Baseball Players Association website: A player with three or more years of service, but less than six years, may file for salary arbitration. In addition, a player can be classified as a “Super Two” and be eligible for arbitration with less than three years of service. A player with at least two but less than three years of Major League service shall be eligible for salary arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and he ranks in the top 17 percent in total service in the class of Players who have at least two but less than three years of Major League service, however accumulated, but with at least 86 days of service accumulated during the immediately preceding season).

As an example, one agent has estimated that the cutoff for Super 2 this year will be two years and 141 days of service time. Mark Reynolds of the Diamondbacks has two years and 138 days. Reynolds was the only player in the majors with 40 homers, 100 RBIs and 20 stolen bases (to go with those 223 strikeouts; I repeat, 223 strikeouts). Anyway, if that estimation of two and 141 is correct, Reynolds will likely make 10 percent of what he could have — in the $500,000 range as opposed to $5 million or so via arbitration. All because of three stinking days he spent in the minors and not in the majors.

Which brings us to the Mariners’ near-misses. Their non-arbitration status could cost them considerable coin, but nothing like Reynolds:

  • Brandon Morrow. Morrow has two years, 91 days of service time, which would put him 50 days short of the 2-141 status. Morrow, remember, went to the minors this year from July 11 to Sept. 9.

  • Jason Vargas. Vargas has two years and 114 days — 27 days short.

  • Jack Hannahan. He has two years and 34 days of service time.

    I have no doubt that Jack Zduriencik, who loves to find hidden gems and high-upside bargain talent, will be very interested in the non-tender free agent crop that could hit the market place.

    Just to whet your appetite, potential non-tenders include (please hold your applause until the end) Chien-Ming Wang, Jack Cust, Chris Ray, Dioner Navarro, Grant Balfour, Kelly Shoppach (fixed; thanks, gsquared), Mike Jacobs, John Buck, Jesse Crain, Brendan Harris, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Church, Scott Proctor, Chad Durbin, Scott Olson, Jason Bergmann, Aaron Heilman, Mike Fontenot, Kip Wells, Laynce Nix, Seth McClung, Denny Bautista, Tyler Yates, Brad Thompson, Blaine Boyer, Ryan Garko, Brandon Medders, Justin Miller.

    Certainly not a complete list — I’m sure there are some high-profile names I’m missing — but these are just some candidates I gathered from talking to colleagues.

    It’s an interesting wrinkle to the Hot Stove season.

    (Mariner photos by Associated Press; photo of Queen Elizabeth II by Getty Images)

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