The Dodgers have until 12am EST / 9pm PST tonight to decide whether to tender a 2011 contract to their five arbitration-eligible players – Chad Billingsley, Hong-Chih Kuo, James Loney, Russell Martin, and George Sherrill. For those not familiar, if the player is tendered a contract, then they may not talk to any other team about a contract, and are on the path to an arbitration hearing early next year. The player and the club are free to discuss a contract agreement before that happens, and that’s usually the case – Jonathan Broxton, Andre Ethier, and Matt Kemp are among the notables to agree to contracts before the arbitration hearing arrived in recent years. The level of difficulty here is that the team may not offer a contract that represents more than a 20% cut from the previous season, so you can’t, for example, try to give Sherrill a $500k deal.
If the player is non-tendered, he then becomes a free agent, and able to negotiate with any team. The Dodgers could still talk to any of the players they non-tender and would no longer be bound by the 20% rule, though of course they would no longer have exclusivity in discussions and would be competing with other teams.
Chad Billingsley. He’s 26. He bounced back from a rough end to 2009 to have one of the better seasons of his career. Uh, yeah, you better believe he’s getting an offer. I’d rather see him agree to a long-term deal before arbitration, though I have to say he’s second in the pecking order to Clayton Kershaw in my book. He’s likely to make about $5.5m in arbitration if he gets that far.
Hong-Chih Kuo. Only had one of the most dominating seasons in history by a reliever last year, so I’d say he’s getting an offer as well. I’m more hesitant to sign him long-term because of his injury history; the $2.5m or so he’d likely pick up in arbitration seems fair to me.
Russell Martin. Where do you start? We’ve talked about this ad nauseum. He’s not nearly what he was, yet that’s still better than most catchers. He’s coming off a serious injury and stands to get about $6m in arbitration, yet the options to replace him are terrible. I don’t know if there’s a right answer here; I’d probably try to sign him to a two-year deal at less per year than he’d get in arbitration, but there’s probably not enough time left to do that today.
James Loney. He’s sub-par among his first base peers, and as he gets older and his salary increases the promise of his potential gets dimmer, especially when there’s a decent crop of veterans who could be had for one year and offer similar production. I said months ago that I’d like to trade him for pitching and get a better option at 1B; still, I don’t think you’ll see him non-tendered.
George Sherrill. Well, he made $4.5m last year, and I can’t imagine they’ll risk paying him anything like that. Still, he was effective vs. LHP and with his record, he’s got a better chance of a bounce-back year than anyone else, so I’d be interested in bringing him back cheaply.
At the time of this writing, the Dodgers have just about 13 hours to make their choices. Check out the poll below, and let me know – which guys are getting contract offers? You can vote for as many as you like.
(Update: the percentages here are kind of misleading, since it’s trying to make all of the figures add up to 100% on the whole, rather than individually. I tried to turn off the percentages and show hard votes only, but it doesn’t appear to be an option. So ignore the percentages and focus on total votes.)
Unrelated, but fun: we’ve started up the hot stove talk at the Baseball Prospectus Fantasy outlet. My first article of the winter about relief pitchers went up today.