Midnight this morning marked the deadline for teams to decide whether to tender or non-tender contracts to the players under their control with less than six years of service time. Those not receiving a contract offer become free to seek a new contract anywhere they please, just like a regular free agent. As usual, several interesting players were given the ol’ heave ho rather than a contract offer from their former clubs.

If there’s any common front office move that I find curious, it’s the way in which teams willingly give up assets, no matter how slight, to acquire replacement and barely above replacement level players. Doing so ahead of the non-tender deadline seems especially foolish considering the players that are bound to be available.

Take the Toronto Blue Jays. No, seriously, take them. Are Ben Francisco and Jeff Mathis, two players that the team recently acquired through trade, really all that much better than Ryan Spilborghs and Ronny Paulino, two players freshly made available after being non-tendered by the Colorado Rockies and New York Mets respectively?

Or what about the Chicago Cubs trading for Ian Stewart? Is he really that much of a better player than Jeff Keppinger, who was non-tendered by the San Francisco Giants?

It’s not as though these players are in high demand and a trade for them needs to take place ahead of the non-tender deadline, most of the barely above replacements being moved around during the early part of the off season are non-tender candidates themselves.

Here are a few other interesting options freshly available on the market:

  • Luke Scott, DH/1B: Had a bad year in 2011, but was one of the best DHs in baseball in 2010. Can devour RHP.
  • Ryan Theriot, SS: All I’m saying is that the St. Louis Cardinals were in first place in the NL Central when Theriot was the team’s starting shortstop for a brief spell last season. I’m not sure what happened after that.
  • Joe Saunders, LHP: Some team is going to overpay for this guy, and he’ll end up in the rotation where he probably doesn’t actually belong.
  • Jose Mijarles, LHP: A reliever who struggled to find his control last season after good strikeout numbers in 2009 and 2010. With a thin lefty relief market, Mijarles should do well out there.

Comments (29)

  1. Shoppach signed with the Red Sox for less money than the Jays signed Mathis.. and the Jays had to trade an asset to get Mathis’ rights. Does this make sense?

    • Depends on whether or not you actually consider Brad Mills an ‘asset’.

      • Also depends on whether or not you feel Shoppach took less scatch to go to Beantown…

        • This is a good point. I’m sure Shoppach might have taken a bit of a discount to play in Boston, but even with that factored in, it just makes no sense how available he was, like these players newly on the market, and yet the team chose Mathis.

          • Jeff Mathis is my new favourite Blue Jay, just because he seems to rile up you sabermetric nerds so badly. Yes, you guys all know more than Mike Scoscia, John Farrell, Alex Anthopolous. and Don Wakamatsu.

            We have much better things to discuss rather than who the backup C is and whether the Jays overpaid him a couple of hundred K.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with this post. I never understand the idea of signing a replacement level veteran when you can just play a kid that costs you nothing and get the same production. Especially for a team like the Jays that’s always crying poor.

  3. in effect, you’re just “avoiding” the FA competition and beating teams to the punch. Once the trade is made, you “should” be paying less for the player through arbitration. You can use the non-guarantee option as leverage to sign guys for less at a guaranteed contract. In FA, you don’t have that option + bidding war “usually” ends up costing more. Players Blue Jays lost weren’t at all in their MLB team plans.

    I know Farrell and Luvullo know Ben Francisco well, so I’m assuming they had a lot of input on him. (Farrell was with Indians when BF was drafted and Luvullo was his manager in AAA)

    • While a clearly above replacement player is practically guaranteed to make more in FA than through arbitration, I’m not so sure about replacement level guys. Would Ben Francisco really make more on the open market? Several times the threat of non-tendering has been used as a means of pushing someone to sign what’s being offered. It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s what happened with Litsch and McGowan.

      • If the Jays tried embarrassing Litsch like that he should have said – fuck you, non tender me. I don’t have a doubt that guy gets scooped up for more than 975k on the open market. If AA wasn’t so busy forcefeeding JoJo Reyes starts down our throats he might have remembered Jesse Litsch, before TJ, was a guy who showed success as a starter in the AL East.

      • It’s not just about competing for dollars. It’s about getting the players you want. If they see something in Francisco in terms of upside that they don’t see in Spilborghs or other replacement level players available, then trading a close to zero value player makes sense. You might not save money, but you prevent other teams from signing the guy you want.

        The general logic makes sense, the specific logic just doesn’t make sense in the circumstances of Mathis.

  4. I fail to see how Brad Mills and Frank Gailey are “assets”. AA dumped two guys who will never be on the Jays’ Major League roster as regulars for two bench players. Also, I’d rather have Ian Stewart than Jeff Keppinger anyday.

    • I wouldn’t say that about Gailey. He has potential to be LH specialist. Could start in Phillies pen this season.

      • Gailey pitched poorly in half a season at AA in his first time at that level at the age of 25. Nothing about that says he has a chance to be in the Phillies pen this season.

    • They are “assets” in the sense that they are warm bodies who were capable of filling a certain role. The two players who were acquired very likely would have been non-tendered by their previous teams and thus they would have been free agents and available to be signed by the Blue Jays without giving up any asset in return if they so desired. In other words, Mills and Gailey (as invaluable as they might be) were given away for nothing.

  5. Francisco is better than Spilborghs, and the asset they traded is presumably incredibly low, but even then, it is hard to justify making the decision before the deadline vs after the deadline.

    In Mathis’ case, the only way it makes sense is if the Jays wanted him and didn’t think they could sign him or a comparable catcher given competition from other teams (that is, owning a player is better than bidding for a player). But given it is Mathis we’re talking about, that also fails to add up very well.

  6. The bucket of Dubble Bubble in the clubhouse is a greater asset than Frank Gailey & Brad Mills.

    • That’s a silly statement. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Gailey makes the big league roster out of Spring Training for the Phillies.

      • He might, but that doesn’t mean he has value. 26 year olds who struggled on their introduction to AA are worthless. This is like saying before the Jeff Mathis trade : I wouldn’t be surprised if Brian Jeroloman makes the big league roster out of Spring Training, and therefore he has value.

        • Jeroloman will likely beat out Mathis for the backup job in Spring Training. Mathis will end up being the backup in Vegas or he’ll get scooped up through waivers.

          • Jeroloman has shown less bat in the minors than Mathis ever did. It’s entirely possible and highly likely that Jeroloman is a worse hitter than even Mathis at the MLB level.

          • Possible i suppose. We’ll just have to wait and see.
            I hope he at least gets the chance to show what he can do. He’s been removed from the 40 man once again so he might not even be in the org come spring…

    • Yeah, like you know more than Ruben Amaro and Jerry Dipoto.

  7. Can we safely say that when it comes to the 24th and 25th roster spots, GMs are extremely risk adverse? They much prefer a known commodity than a marginally better player (possibly) about whom they know less?

    • Yes. AA identified the bench players he wanted and got them before they could hit FA and he’d have to “entice” them to come to Toronto (and we know from Joe Cowley how players feel about that). Nothing to see here.

  8. mijares, not mijarles

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