Tonight at 12am ET / 9pm PT represents the deadline for the Dodgers to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players, and while there’s not quite the “will they or won’t they?” drama that accompanied the Russell Martin decision last year, there’s still some choices to be made. Entering the off-season, the Dodgers had seven eligible players to decide upon…
- First time: Clayton Kershaw,
- Second time: Tony Gwynn
- Third time:
Matt Kemp, James Loney, Hong-Chih Kuo
- Fourth time: Andre Ethier
Kershaw. Uh, yeah. Pretty sure the reigning NL Cy Young is going to get tendered, and assuming he doesn’t sign a long-term deal, he’s in line for something like $7-$8m in his first year of arbitration. Yes, of course.
Gwynn. Though this is his second year of eligibility, Gwynn hasn’t actually gone through the arbitration process, since San Diego non-tendered him last December. After signing with the Dodgers for $675,000, he provided the expected mixture of mediocre offense and outstanding defense, in addition to being a useful piece on the bases. Though I think you could probably do a little better with the roster spot, he’s an acceptable backup outfielder, and so the question of whether he gets an offer comes down to numbers, both in terms of money and personnel. Gwynn could get over $1m in arbitration, perhaps more than the Dodgers want to spend, and the addition of Jerry Hairston means that they now have someone who can in theory spell Matt Kemp now and then in center field. In addition, if the Dodgers do plan on adding that additional bat we keep hearing about, there just might not be room for Gwynn on the roster, particularly if the addition is left-handed. Still, the outfield defense is subpar and Hairston isn’t really ideal in center, so Gwynn is valuable enough for his glove alone; I think it’s slightly more likely than not that he is tendered, though this is clearly the toughest call of any today. Probably.
Loney. It’s amazing to think that this is even a consideration after how certain we were for much of 2011 that he was absolutely going to get non-tendered, but Loney’s stellar finish seems to have earned him another chance, at least based on Ned Colletti’s comments of late. Loney’s recent (and increasingly bizarre) run-in with the law on a Los Angeles freeway last month aren’t helping his case, though it doesn’t appear to have hurt his standing with the club, and assuming the Dodgers have no prayer at landing Prince Fielder, there’s few other first base alternatives left anyway. Yes.
Kuo. The inverse of Loney, where a year ago it was difficult to imagine that a non-tender was even a possibility. If an awful 2011 was the only issue, you could perhaps see the club taking a chance, but yet another arm surgery torpedoed any shot that they’d risk the ~$3m he’d get in arbitration. That doesn’t mean we’ve definitely seen the last of him, however, because it’s unlikely any other club gives him a serious offer, and if he returns to baseball, he might not feel comfortable trusting his fragile health to a training staff who doesn’t know him nearly as well as the Dodgers do. No.
Ethier. Despite worrying before the season that he’d be non-tendered if he didn’t perform well and then going out and having an injury-plagued, sub-par season, Ethier’s a lock to receive a tender. He’ll likely receive about $12m in his final season of arbitration, and while that’s a bit pricey for me, I’m relatively optimistic he’ll have a productive season – and if the Dodgers are out of it in July, they can trade him and save about $4m of that. Yes.