Major League Baseball clubs must decide whether to tender a contract offer to each of its players who are eligible for arbitration by December 2nd. If they decline to tender a contract, the player becomes a free agent. Over 200 players are eligible for arbitration, and about 40 of those are considered "non-tender candidates," according to MLB Trade Rumors.
December 2nd is of interest to the Tigers because of players on other teams who might become available as free agents. Detroit would have had two non-tender candidates in Andy Dirks and Don Kelly, but the club put both players on waivers shortly after the end of the season. Dirks was claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays, while Kelly cleared waivers and elected free agency.
The Tigers will tender a contract to their four remaining arbitration eligible players: David Price, Rick Porcello, J.D. Martinez, and Al Alburquerque. The offers will be for one season, and must be for no less than 80 percent of last year's salary. If the players decline those offers -- a likely occurrence, as players generally bargain for more pay -- both sides can negotiate until mid-January, when they exchange salary figures. If history is any lesson, they will agree on a salary figure. No player has gone to an arbitration hearing during Dave Dombrowski's tenure in Detroit.
Players who are not tendered a contract by the deadline are typically those who would make more money than their clubs are willing to pay them. By the time the deadline rolls around, clubs have had a month since the end of the season to see if those players could be traded. In many cases, the clubs have already put the players on waivers or designated them for assignment to see if they can get something for them, rather than just let them walk away.
When a player is designated for assignment, his club has ten days to trade him, or put him through waivers and either release him or outright him to the minor leagues. A player who has been outrighted at least once in their career previously can refuse the outright assignment and choose free agency, such as Ezequiel Carrera did last week.
If a player is claimed off waivers, his new club takes on his contract terms and status, so they may face the same dilemma with arbitration. If the player is released or chooses free agency, clubs can negotiate terms with him.
When a player is non-tendered, there is no waiting period and he is not put on waivers. The player immediately becomes a free agent, eligible to sign with any team. Although the player has accrued enough service time to be eligible for arbitration, a club can sign the player on mutually agreeable terms without the risk of arbitration that his former club was not willing to take.
Here are some non-tender candidates who might be of interest to the Tigers:
Previously Designated for Assignment
Sean Rodriguez, INF, Tampa Bay Rays: The utility infielder who was once traded by the Angels for Scott Kazmir is the odd man out in the Rays' infield. He hit .211/.258/.443 in 2014 with 12 home runs, and .246/.320/.385 with five homers in 2013 as a part time shortstop/second baseman.
Ronald Belisario, RP, Chicago White Sox: The former Dodgers' relief pitcher saw some time in the closer's role with Chicago in 2014, but struggled with a 5.56 ERA and a WHIP of 1.45 in 66 appearances. He was designated for assignment, cleared waivers, and has been outrighted to the minors. His ship has sailed and clubs would have to work out a trade with the White Sox.
Eric Stults, SP, San Diego Padres: A 34 year old left-handed pitcher, Stults earned $2.75 million in 2014, posting a 4.30 ERA with a 1.38 WHIP in 176 innings in 2014. He is an innings eater who doesn't allow a lot of walks and isn't a strikeout pitcher, but was killed by 26 home runs, with 18 of those coming away from Petco Park. He was designated for assignment, cleared waivers, and has elected free agency. Stults will likely find a club willing to give him a major league contract for less than his projected arbitration salary.
Alejandro De Aza, OF, Baltimore Orioles: The White Sox traded De Aza to the Orioles during the 2014 season and he mashed with a .293/.341/.537 slashline for Baltimore down the stretch. A 30 year old left-handed hitter from the Dominican Republic, De Aza is a career .274/.335/.413 hitter against right-handed pitchers. He is projected to make $5.9 million in arbitration. This is one outfielder who would be far better for the Tigers than Rajai Davis against right-handers.
Dayan Viciedo, OF, Chicago White Sox: Viciedo is a 25 year old Cuban that bats right-handed and plays outfield, and has a projected salary of $3.4 million for the 2015 season. Viciedo hit .231/.281/.405 with 21 home runs for Chicago last season. He's not a top of the order bat. While his splits show that he fared a bit better against right-handed pitching, his defense is shaky and he is on the wrong side of a platoon for Detroit's needs.
Eric Young, Jr, OF, New York Mets: A speedy, switch-hitting outfielder, Young stole 30 bases, hitting .229 with a .299 on base percentage for the Mets in 2014. He hit .230/.316/.310 against right-handed pitchers in 316 plate appearances in 2014 and has a career line of .248/.321/.330 against right-handers. Young has a projected salary of $2.3 million, and should be well worth that amount if he sees the same kind of playing time that he has been getting.
Yonder Alonso, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres: A 27 year old left-handed hitting Cuban, Alonso is more of a first baseman than he is an outfielder. His numbers in 2014 were down, slashing .240/.285/.397 with seven home runs in 288 plate appearances. His career line of .271/.334/.395 is more attractive, and he has hit .281/.343/.413 against right handed pitching. In his first time through arbitration, he projects to make $1.6 million.
Brian Duensing, RP, Minnesota Twins: The 31 year old left-hander will be eligible for arbitration for the last time this winter, and is projected to earn $2.5 million in 2015. He posted a 3.31 ERA with a 1.32 WHIP in 54 innings in 2014, which is much better than the Tigers got from their bullpen. He gave up six home runs, but is much better against left-handed hitters, allowing no home runs and a .242 average.
Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Colorado Rockies: A 26 year old right-handed starting pitcher from Venezuela, Chacin has a 3.78 ERA with a WHIP of 1.34 in six seasons in the major leagues. Injuries have disrupted his career in 2012 and 2014. He made just 11 starts last season, posting a 5.40 ERA. He led all NL rookies in strikeouts in 2010, his rookie season, but he has a career walk rate of 3.8 batters per nine innings. HIs projected salary for 2015 is $4.9 million.
Anthony Bass, SP/RP, Houston Astros: A 27 year old right-handed pitcher from Dearborn, Michigan, Bass went to Trenton high school, and was drafted by the Padres from Wayne State University. He started 15 games for the Padres in 2012, but has been used only in relief the past two seasons. As a super two eligible for arbitration, Bass has a projected salary of just $600,000 for 2015. He struggled with a 6.33 ERA in 27 innings in 2014, but could be worth an invitation to Lakeland on a minor league deal.
Some other non tender candidates of interest
Gordon Beckham, IF, Los Angeles Angels
Jayson Nix, IF, Kansas City Royals
Eduardo Nunez, IF, Minnesota Twins
Everth Cabrera, SS, San Diego Padres
Anthony Swarzak, RP, Minnesota Twins
Alexi Ogando, RP, Texas Rangers
Kris Medlen, SP, Atlanta Braves
Travis Wood, SP, Chicago Cubs