The A’s have some serious decisions to make before the evening is over.
The club has nine men on the roster who are arbitration eligible and by 9 p.m. this evening Oakland must decide which of the nine will be tendered contracts.
The group includes pitchers Jerry Blevins, Jesse Chavez and Fernando Rodriguez, catcher John Jaso, first basemen Daric Barton and Brandon Moss, shortstop Jed Lowrie and outfielders Josh Reddick and Seth Smith.
Those players who are tendered contracts are those the club is willing to go to salary arbitration with, although typically the A’s like to avoid arbitration whenever possible. Non-tendered players become free agents.
Since Smith, a backup outfielder who made a relatively modest $3.67 million in 2013, comes into the process with the largest salary of the nine by far, Oakland management doesn’t face some of the high-dollar arbitration pressures that other organizations face.
Still, Smith is a candidate to be among the non-tendered. The A’s seem close to being ready to commit to outfielder Michael Choice, one of the club’s top prospects, and going with Choice might mean the expense of a $4-5 million contract for Smith might not be deemed advisable.
Anyone non-tendered tonight isn’t necessarily gone; he could be back if the club and the player can work out a deal in free agency.
Salary isn’t the only reason to non-tender a player. A surplus at any one position may lead a club to decide not to clog up the 40-man roster with a player who might only be a fringe player.
Such is the case with Barton, who came up late last year to get regular playing time and make a meaningful contribution. Unless the A’s decide to move Moss and his 30 homers into the already crowded outfield mix, Barton, like Moss a left-hander, isn’t likely to have a guaranteed playing time on the roster looking forward. So the A’s could non-tender him, then perhaps offer him a make-good contract in the free agency market.
Reddick, Lowrie, Jaso and Moss are almost certain to be tendered contracts as the A’s have talked about having roles for them going forward.
The 9 p.m. deadline is also big for the A’s in that as other clubs non-tender players currently on the 40-man roster, the pool of free agent help at a modest cost will expand greatly. Approximately one-quarter of all players on Major League rosters are arbitration eligible, and while most of them will be tendered contracts, the ones who aren’t will be looking for new homes.