The Pittsburgh Pirates non-tendered Chaz Roe and Gaby Sanchez tonight, while tendering every other player, including the 11 players who are eligible for arbitration.
The next step will be an attempt to work out deals with each player, and avoiding arbitration. The next important date will be January 13th, when the players have to officially file for arbitration. On January 16th, the two sides will exchange arbitration figures. Usually, the two sides will meet somewhere in the middle to avoid arbitration, although there are cases where the two sides will go to arbitration, even over small differences.
The arbitration hearings are held from February 1st through the 21st. The two sides can still work out a deal, even right before the hearing. If they can’t work out a deal, the ruling from the arbitration hearing determines the player’s salary.
In most cases, the team and player work out one year deals. A few players avoid arbitration with extensions, including deals that just cover future arbitration years, without any free agent years. The Pirates have worked out several types of extensions to avoid arbitration. Just last year they signed Charlie Morton to a three-year extension, buying out his final year of arbitration.
The Pirates don’t have many extension candidates this year. Neil Walker is the most popular player mentioned in terms of an extension, but actually extending him makes no sense for the Pirates right now. They have him under control for two more seasons, and any extension to buy out free agent years won’t get them much of a discount. They’d be better off waiting until he is a free agent, then determining if they still need him. If no replacement candidate has stepped up, they can re-sign him for around the same rate they would pay him now under an extension.
Pedro Alvarez isn’t really an extension candidate after the year he just had, and he’s a Scott Boras client, making it unlikely that he would get extended. Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, and Jared Hughes are relievers, and it’s unlikely for relievers to get an extension from the Pirates. The exception would be a two-year deal to buy out multiple years of arbitration, like the Pirates did a few years ago with Matt Capps.
Vance Worley and Josh Harrison are both coming off surprising seasons, although it would be a risk to extend either player at this point. Harrison looked like one of the best third basemen in the league, but probably needs one more year of that production before the Pirates could think about an extension. Worley looked like the pre-2013 version that pitched so well in Philadelphia, but the Pirates might not need to extend him, since he could be pushed out of the rotation after the 2015 season, with all of the prospects ready to emerge in the upper levels.
The other arbitration eligible players are guys who play small roles, like Travis Snider and Sean Rodriguez, who will likely get one-year deals. That includes the catching combo of Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli.
The non-tender deadline brings a new group of free agent options, although none of them are expected to play big roles. The Pirates aren’t going to find a top of the rotation starter from the recently non-tendered players, although they could find a first base platoon option, a lefty reliever, or a depth option for the rotation.
Kyle Blanks was non-tendered by the Athletics, and seems to be the favorite name among Pirates fans as a replacement for Gaby Sanchez. I like Sanchez better, as Blanks has a career .752 OPS against left-handers. Blanks had a strong season in 2014, although it was an extremely small sample size, with less than 100 plate appearances. The one advantage that Blanks has is the age factor, and the hope that he might live up to his former prospect hype. However, he’s at an age where that seems less likely to happen.
Several injury plagued pitchers were non-tendered today, including Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Alexi Ogando. Medlen and Beachy are both recovering from their second Tommy John surgeries. Ogando was shut down last year with the Rangers due to elbow issues. These aren’t guys who the Pirates should be relying on for the top of the rotation, but they wouldn’t be bad depth options, joining the group that contains Brett Anderson and Brandon Morrow.
The lefty relievers include Michael Kirkman from Texas and Wesley Wright from the Cubs.
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