The St. Louis Cardinals have five players with between three and six years of major league service who were not already under contract for 2013. All five – relievers Mitchell Boggs, Jason Motte, Edward Mujica and Marc Rzepczynski, plus third baseman David Freese – are eligible to have their salary for next season decided via arbitration. Jaime Garcia would have joined them had he not already signed a long-term contract covering his arbitration-eligible years.
The first step with the five was on the Cardinals. The club needed to declare its intention to enter the process. Alternatively, the team had the right to not offer a contract – called non-tendering the player – making him an immediate free agent.
Clubs would do this if they fear the contract amount the player could earn via arbitration would be more than the team would like to pay.
In the case of the Cardinals’ five, all were reportedly offered contracts for 2013 by Friday night’s deadline of midnight Eastern. From that point forward, players and team remain firmly committed to one another. The only question that remains is how much the players will make next season.
The two sides will exchange amounts that indicate their respective views of what the player should be paid in 2013. Of course, the player will expect to earn more than the team will likely offer. If discussions between the two do not lead to an agreement by February, one of the two amounts will be selected by an arbitrator following a hearing at which each side presents its case.
Since 1999 marked the last time the Cardinals actually went to hearing with a player, a more peaceful resolution is a virtual certainty for all five.
Other than the actual salaries TBD, there is no suspense – or is there?
Despite the Cardinals’ non-eventful deadline, the non-tender date has created potential opportunity for them, as other clubs created instant free agents.
Useful players can be sometimes be found as a result. For example, this is how David Eckstein became a Cardinal, after the Angels non-tendered him during the 2004-2005 off-season.
So a new focus of Cardinals watchers pondering potential additions for the 2013 season should be on the non-tender list. Perhaps a left-handed reliever, a middle infielder or a right-handed outfielder with some punch can be found.