The Major League Baseball offseason is littered with deadlines and a big one comes up Friday at midnight, when the Pittsburgh Pirates must tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players.
The Bucs currently have seven such players they must decide on whether or not to tender. If they elect to non-tender a player, he immediately becomes a free agent.
Here’s a look at what the Pirates both should do and likely will do as tomorrow’s deadline approaches.
First-Time Eligible Players
James McDonald: Much was made of J-Mac’s struggles in the second half of last season, but you look how dominant he was in the first half and you try and figure his problems out. He’s a lock to be tendered and should earn somewhere in the range of $3-3.5 million.
Neil Walker: This is a no-brainer. Walker is also a lock and after he is tendered, hopefully the organization can work out a long-term deal with him. But there is no rush in that as Walker is only first-time arbitration eligible this season.
Gaby Sanchez: Given the current situation at first base, I would like to see Sanchez get more of a look this season if the position isn’t upgraded. He’s a lock to be tendered as the Pirates are hoping he can find what made him successful two seasons ago in Miami. Also, they didn’t trade a draft pick for Sanchez to watch him walk so soon.
Second-Time Eligible Players
Garrett Jones: I’m still not convinced Jones is a long-term solution at first base and would like to see the team upgrade the position sooner, rather than later. But he put together a decent 2012 campaign and is also a lock to be tendered. Having said that, players typically don’t increase production too much at age 32, which Jones will be in June. He hasn’t put up great numbers to this point and sinking more than $4 million into him now is a bit risky by my standards. It would make sense to deal him now while his value is the highest, but the Pirates rarely sell high, so I would expect Jones back for another season, but I would expect his numbers to once again start trending down. He would make perfect sense for an American League team looking for a DH.
Chris Resop: Resop isn’t a bad reliever at all but I wouldn’t expect him to be tendered tomorrow. One thing Neal Huntington has been able to do is assemble a bullpen and he can likely find a capable reliever than around the $1.5 million Resop would likely make.
Charlie Morton: I like Morton and he showed promise in 2011 before coming down with an arm injury last year. After Tommy John surgery he’s looking at midseason in the best case scenario. He likely could be tendered because the Pirates have invested a lot of time in him. However I wouldn’t do it. Morton has had plenty of opportunities to put together consistent performances and has yet to do so. He’s not really a part of the Bucs future rotation plans, so the smart thing to do would be to end the experiment now.
Third-Year Eligible Players
Jeff Karstens: Karstens does nothing for me. His numbers aren’t bad, having put up a 3.59 ERA in 253 innings during the past two season. But he’s not reliable health wise and is another guy that has problems turning in consistent outings. The only role I like him in is the long relief role, but you don’t pay a guy close to $4 million to pitch in long relief. He’s now in his 30’s and his career-high in innings pitched came in 2011 when he threw 162.1. Last season he was limited to 90.2 because of injuries. Karstens just doesn’t have much impact on this team and the writing should be on the wall. If I had to guess, I would say he will be non-tendered, but I won’t be totally shocked if the Pirates tender him, although tendering him is a move that makes little sense.
Joel Hanrahan: “The Hammer” is a lock to be tendered but isn’t a lock to be with the Pirates when the season begins. He will likely earn over $7 million this season and that is a dollar figure the Bucs won’t pay for a closer. Expect Hanrahan to be dealt, but he won’t be traded tomorrow, so he will be tendered a contract.