Another one of those important winter deadlines has suddenly crept upon us. On Friday, November 30, the Dodgers must decide if they wish to tender 2019 contracts to any or all of their 10 arbitration-eligible players.
Theoretically, there’s a legitimate shot that all 10 are offered a deal; however, whether or not those players accept the terms is a different story. Should any of the cases linger on through the winter, the Dodgers are one of the most successful clubs in terms of negotiating, so the chances of a case hitting the arbitration room are very thin. Still, chances exist for a player(s) to be non-tendered and thrown into the winter’s free agent market.
The five position players who are arbitration eligible are Corey Seager, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez—all of whom are basically guaranteed contracts, for all intents and purposes.
The five pitchers are Pedro Baez, Alex Wood, Tony Cingrani, Josh Fields and Yimi Garcia. There are a few arms in this group which are a little more difficult to justify. Baez and Wood are virtual locks, but Cingrani, Fields and Garcia are lingering question marks.
It’s hard to say what the club will decide. If basing the determinations on ceilings and potential alone, I think all three have reasonable shots of being given deals. In spite of that, based on all the information available at the moment, it’s impossible to know where each player is health-wise and mechanically. All three pitchers were rehabbing from injuries towards the end of the 2018 regular season, and while the entire trio did indeed make big league appearances during the stretch run, all three were omitted from the postseason rosters.
One factor the organization may consider—if the club is indeed payroll conscientious—is how much the player could conceivably be awarded should the case hit arbitration. Cingrani earned $2.3 million last year while Fields made $2.2 million—both significant sums for pitchers who spent the majority of the year on the shelf. Garcia earned just $630K last year, which seems affordable, but he was one of the players in danger of being non-tendered at this time last year.
Garcia was always touted for his exceptional spin rate, but he has yet to put the entire puzzle together. The 28-year-old righty missed all of the 2017 season after Tommy John surgery, but posted a 5.64 ERA over 25 appearances in his return last year.
Cingrani, 29, appeared to have rediscovered himself and his slider after being dealt to the Dodgers from Cincinnati at the non-waiver deadline in 2017, but shoulder problems were his demise last season. Overall, the lefty made 30 appearances, registering a 4.76 ERA and a 1.103 WHIP in 2018.
The hard-throwing Fields was also a victim of shoulder problems and was shut down for the entirety of July and August. In total, the 33-year-old right-hander made 45 appearances last year and posted a 2.20 ERA, a 3.62 FIP and a 7.2 K/9 over an even 41 innings of work. His 2018 K/9 rate was the lowest of his big league career.
My best guess is that all 10 players will be tendered a contract before tomorrow’s deadline, but if there’s one who could be non-tendered, it may be Garcia.
As it stands now, the Los Angeles 40-man roster is full.