Last week, we saw the Braves make their final decisions as to who to protect and who will be left eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December. On the keeper list – pitchers Jacob Webb, Patrick Weigel, and Huascar Ynoa along with catcher Alex Jackson. On the eligible list – a collection of players highlighted by Travis Demeritte, Braxton Davidson, and Josh Graham. We’ll see how the Rule 5 plays out on the final day of next month’s Winter Meetings.
But another deadline is fast approaching – the non-tender deadline. Tomorrow is the deadline to tender a contract to eligible players under team control for the 2019 season. Who is eligible? Any member on the 40-man roster who has less than six years of service time in the majors. If Atlanta fails to tender them a contract, they are considered non-tendered and become immediate free agents.
For the most part, this deadline is a big deal for arbitration-eligible players. After all, they are the ones with rapidly increasing salaries. Occasionally, however, a player who is not yet arbitration-eligible will be non-tendered. A few years ago, the Braves non-tendered Gus Schlosser rather than keep him on the 40-man roster. A few days later, they re-signed him to a minor league deal and later traded him to the Rockies. In another case, the Braves swooped in after the Yankees non-tendered Jacob Lindgren, signing the lefty who was not yet eligible for arbitration.
Let’s look at the meat and potatoes of what Friday might mean for the Braves and who might see their team end with the Braves at the non-tender deadline.
The 99.9% Club
This collection of players has almost no chance of being kicked off the 40-man roster. Many of them will be signed for deals for the 2019 season. In fact, some already do have a contract for 2019.
- P: Kolby Allard, Jesse Biddle, Mike Foltynewicz, Max Fried, Kevin Gausman, Luiz Gohara, A.J. Minter, Sean Newcomb, Darren O’Day, Chad Sobotka, Mike Soroka, Julio Teheran, Touki Toussaint, Jacob Webb, Patrick Weigel, Bryse Wilson, Dan Winkler, Kyle Wright, Husascar Ynoa
- C: Tyler Flowers, Alex Jackson, Brian McCann
- IF: Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, Josh Donaldson, Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson
- OF: Ronald Acuña Jr., Charlie Culberson, Ender Inciarte
Well, that was quick. Of the 40-man roster, I feel safe to say 30 of them have little worry that their place on the 40-man roster is in jeopardy. I did include the four players who were added to keep them from being eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Technically, the team could non-tender them, but I find that very hard to believe.
Probably Safe Club
Originally, this club had more than one member, but the signings of McCann and Donaldson changed that. To find room for the two players, lefties Adam McCreery and Ricardo Sanchez were designated for assignment. I felt both were “probably safe” in terms of being offered a contract for 2019, but their spot on the 40-man was considered a bit more valuable. Since both are now on their way out of the organization through a pair of small deals for cash, this club was reduced to one member: Grant Dayton. He was recently re-added to the 40-man roster rather than receive a boot like Lindgren received. While things change, I do believe he’ll be safe.
On the Chopping Block
That leaves us with nine players who I think have the highest chance of being non-tendered. By no means am I saying all of these players – or any – will be non-tendered. Only that their possibility of being non-tendered is greater than the other 31 members of the 40-man roster.
These nine are ordered by the percentage I give them for sticking around on the 40-man roster after Friday.
75% – Raffy Lopez…My only reason to include Lopez, who is not arbitration-eligible and does have an option left, comes from the decision to add Jackson to the 40-man roster. Presumably, neither Lopez or Jackson are being counted on to play a big role for the big league club in 2019. As such, carrying a pair of minor league catchers on the 40-man roster might give the Braves enough pause to non-tender Lopez after acquiring him to open the month.
72% – Shane Carle…It would be shocking to see the Braves non-tender a pitcher with a 2.86 ERA over 63 innings, but consider that (1) he didn’t get a spot on the playoff roster and (2) most of that was due to an injury-shortened second half where he had more walks than strikeouts and an ugly FIP of 4.80. Carle isn’t eligible for arbitration, but did he build enough goodwill in the first half?
70% – Luke Jackson…Formerly a solid prospect, Jackson’s 2018 was remembered for being released and almost immediately re-signed by the Braves. Along the way, he pitched in 35 games for the team with a 4.43 ERA. That’s not too dissimilar from his 4.62 mark over 43 games during the previous season. However, Jackson found his strikeout pitch this season whereas it was MIA during 2017. Will that be enough to get tendered a contract?
65% – Jonny Venters…It would seem like Venters is an easy keep here and is only projected, according to MLB Trade Rumors, to cost $1.5 million for 2019 in the final year of arbitration. But much like the next player I’ll cover, Venters made a list of players Braves beat writer Mark Bowman feels could be a possible non-tender. With an eight-man bullpen certainly back on tap for 2019, finding room for a pitcher who limited left-hand hitters to a .185 wOBA in 2018 seems like an easy fit even with the Braves bullpen including southpaws like A.J. Minter and Jesse Biddle.
60% – Arodys Vizcaino…Same thing with Venters, I don’t believe Vizcaino is a possible non-tender, but his placement on Bowman’s list has me thinking. Vizcaino will cost around $5 million in arbitration and has failed to avoid the DL in each of the four seasons since returning from the Cubs via the Tommy La Stella trade. Of course, he was injured when the Braves traded him all those years ago to Chicago and stayed hurt there as well. It’s worth considering whether the money is worth it for Vizcaino’s talented, but fragile right-arm. Only once since 2011 has he thrown 50 innings in a single season. That said, the high-end talent is there and I expect the Braves to bring him back for the final year of arbitration.
55% – Wes Parsons…Added during the season when the Braves needed an arm, Parsons threw five innings in a game out of the pen for the team just to save the rest of the pen. When he wasn’t taking one for the team, he was solid in the minors – something he has been for some time. He doesn’t have the potential other arms have and the undrafted free agent has had to earn every single promotion and spot along the way. He’s gritty, but do the Braves see him as a long-term piece?
50% – Rio Ruiz…Not arbitration-eligible with one more option, might the Braves cut bait now? Ruiz has appeared to stall out in Triple-A with his wOBA falling over 20 points in 2018 from where it was before. In nearly 200 plate appearances in the majors, Ruiz has a .189/.282/.302 triple slash. If all that wasn’t bad enough, Ruiz seems to not have a future in the organization with Johan Camargo and Austin Riley in the mix. Ruiz is a hard worker, well-liked, and willing to embrace the utility role by play first base and even the outfield. But the Braves might be willing to move on now rather than later.
35% – Adam Duvall…Some feel Duvall is a goner, but I’m not so sure. While the Braves didn’t give up much to acquire him (ultimately Matt Wisler and Lucas Sims), I think they don’t want to give up on Duvall so soon. Not a traditional southpaw basher, the right-hand hitting Duvall is a solid defender in left field with great power. If hitting coach Kevin Seitzer can work his magic, Duvall could once again put up a 2.5 fWAR season like he did in 2016. But perhaps that hope isn’t worth the investment, which will be around $3 million in arbitration.
25% – Sam Freeman…A solid second half seemed to have saved Freeman, but then he was left off the postseason roster. That may have been due to matchups as Alex Anthopoulos explained to The Athletic’s David O’Brien. “We faced a pretty selective team in L.A., and we thought we needed stuff to get guys out.” Nevertheless, perhaps the team felt Freeman’s resurgence down the stretch was not nearly as impressive as it looked. But working against Freeman might also be the numbers. Tendering both Venters and Freeman a contract, with Biddle and Minter already in the mix, would carve out half of the 2019 pen for left-handed relievers. That doesn’t include Max Fried, a possible option for the bullpen as well.
Who, if anybody, doesn’t get tendered a contract if you’re the Braves general manager? Let me know below.