The non-tender deadline is fast approaching, and teams are running out of time to make their decisions. Teams have the option of tendering contracts to players still under team control, that is, with under six years of Major League service time. Most of these players will be tendered, as arbitration-eligible players are generally much less expensive than free agents. But there is a fair number of players who will find themselves tossed into the deep end of the free agent pool before the day is over, as the deadline is today at 11:59 pm ET.
John Axford and Andrew Bailey are a pair of late-inning relievers who could end up being non-tendered. Both have impressive histories as dominant closers, but both have struggled in recent years. Axford saved over 100 games for the Brewers from '09-'12, but battled wildness, lost his job, and was unceremoniously shipped to St. Louis this past August. The Cardinals now must decide whether he deserves a raise on his $5 million salary. Most think they will non-tender him and cut him loose instead.
Bailey has been hindered by injuries his two years in Boston, throwing only 44 lackluster innings for the Sox since coming over in a trade with Oakland. A Rookie of the Year award and two All-Star selections earned him healthy salaries of around $4 million in '12 and '13, and he is in line for a modest raise if the Red Sox decide to tender him. Koji Uehara was dominant as the closer through their championship run this year, so they may decide that Bailey is dispensable. It looks like they are leaning towards tendering him though, as Joel Sherman says they view him as insurance for the aging Uehara.
Daric Barton and Mat Gamel are once-promising prospects who have not been able to live up to the hype. Barton has been around seemingly forever, as he was the marquee prospect that the Cardinals sent to the A's in exchange for Mark Mulder nine years ago. The A's have shown the kind of patience with him that he shows at the plate (he led the AL in walks in 2010 and has a career OBP of .360). He has shown little else though, and the A's seem likely to decide it is time to cut bait. Barton spent much of the 2013 season in AAA and didn't make much of a late-season last chance in the bigs.
Gamel's story is like some kind of Greek tragedy. He was once a top-50 prospect and was seen as the heir-apparent to Prince Fielder at first base for the Brewers. When Fielder left via free agency before the 2012 season, the job was Gamel's to lose. He tore his ACL in May of that year and lost the rest of the season. He worked hard though, rehabbed diligently, and came to camp in 2013 with a shot at filling in for the also-injured Corey Hart. Unfortunately, he injured the knee again and lost the entire season. The Brewers put him on waivers and he was picked up by the Cubs. The Cubs could choose to tender him, as there is little risk involved. Since he has basically not played in two years, his salary should remain fairly modest and under $1 million. They may decide though that the roster spot could be better spent on someone who has more than one knee left.