All three players we mentioned below as possible non-tender options have been officially non-tendered (Martinez, Elliot Johnson and Paul Janish). Ramiro Peña was tendered a one year contract that will allow the team to avoid arbitration.
The Braves have a plethora of young players who are up for salary arbitration this off-season, however most of them are very easy "tender" decisions. For those who aren't completely versed in the MLB hot stove terminology, in the off-season, players who are arbitration eligible first have to be tendered (or non-tendered) a contract before they go through the arbitration process. There are a few options for how this can play out:
- Like Jonny Venters did, the entire process can be circumvented by signing a contract prior to the tender deadline (which is tonight at midnight, by the way). This typically happens when both parties want to remain together, but the club doesn't want to pay the raise that would be virtually guaranteed in arbitration. Like with Venters, you typically see this happen in the case of injured pitchers, particularly relievers. This is because a flaw in the arbitration system is that players are virtually guaranteed to get raises, even if the free market would almost certainly not give them a raise. Instead the Braves signed a one year deal with Venters at the exact same salary as last year.
- The team can non-tender a player, at which point the player becomes a free agent, and then the team may sign him as a free agent just like any other team might. This is a route that the Braves took last year when they non-tendered Peter Moylan, but then signed him to a minor league deal.
- The team can non-tender a player and let him walk as a free agent. This is what the Braves did with Kelly Johnson a while back.
- The team can tender a player and then sign a contract with the player before it goes to an arbitration hearing. There is a lot of talk amongst writers that this is done to avoid the contentious debates about a player's worth that might lead to hard feelings and hurt chances of extending a player. However, it's much more likely done so that teams can take the guesswork out of what will happen in the arbitration hearing. Arbitration outcomes can sometimes be surprising, especially for "interesting" players without clear comparables (eg Craig Kimbrel). Regardless of the why, it is almost certain that this is the route the majority of our arbitration eligible players will go.
- The player can go to an arbitration hearing with the club. Essentially what happens here is that the club and the player both present a salary number that they believe the player is worth. The team and the player then present their cases to the arbitrator. At that point the arbitrator must pick either the team or the player's figure, he cannot chose a compromise value in between. Thus either the player or the team "wins" the hearing. Regardless of who wins, the team must either pay the player that number or trade him.The team cannot decline the contract.
The Braves list of arbitration eligible players is (h/t Bowman): Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, Mike Minor, Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden, Chris Johnson, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Jordan Schafer, Cristhian Martinez, Ramiro Peña, Elliot Johnson and Paul Janish.
Of these, all will easily be tendered contracts except Martinez, Elliot Johnson and Paul Janish. Martinez will likely be non-tendered, though I do think he's a good candidate for the Braves to bring back at a lower salary than the $750,000 he made last season (ie options 1 or 2 from above), but the Braves could certainly let him walk as well.
Johnson and Janish are interesting cases, as both may be looking at salaries in the neighborhood of $900,000 through arbitration. With Peña being a near certainty to be offered arbitration, one of Johnson or Janish, or maybe even both, may well be expendable. If I had to guess I'd guess the Braves keep Johnson and non-tender Janish. But I could see it going in virtually any direction as well.