This post enables me to go on record with my non-tender predictions for the St. Louis Cardinals before they are announced later today. (In fact, I already have my article written for the main site, but of course, cannot post it until we know for sure.)
Though some media sources seem to have forgotten that he is eligible, newcomer Peter Bourjos is among the three Cardinals who I predict will be tendered, or offered a contract for 2014. The other two are also first-time arbitration-eligible players in Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso.
I suspect that second-time arb-eligible reliever John Axford will be non-tendered, made a free agent. The decision would not be performance-based, but financial. The 30-year-old made $5 million last season based on closing for Milwaukee. According to the collective bargaining agreement, his 2014 salary can be reduced only 20 percent via arbitration.
Simply put, I cannot see the Cardinals spending $4 million or more for a sixth- or seventh-inning setup man. There is nothing that would stop the two sides from coming to terms later, but as a non-restricted free agent, Axford may secure a better, multi-year deal with more responsibility elsewhere.
As I first reported for The Cardinal Nation subscribers back on October 30, right-hander Lance Lynn missed qualifying for arbitration by just three days of MLB service time. Catcher Tony Cruz fell 17 days short. Other 2013 Cardinals who would have been on the team’s list had they remained are new Angels David Freese and Fernando Salas and free agent Rob Johnson.
The non-tender deadline is midnight Eastern tonight, Monday night. Remember that the process works both ways. As other clubs make their comparable decisions, the free agent pool will expand accordingly. That is how the Cardinals and non-tendered Angels shortstop David Eckstein came together back in December 2004, for example.
Update: Not surprisingly, the above forecast proved to be accurate. Additional details on next steps can be found in this article.