Blue Jays facing decisions with non-tender candidates


The Blue Jays are facing several non-tender decisions this week which could impact the 2016 payroll

An MLB offseason is a lengthy string of deadlines, and one of the coming dates the Toronto Blue Jays have circled is next Wednesday, the league’s non-tender deadline. The Blue Jays could be looking at several decisions on this front, especially given their budget limitations as they work to bolster their rotation with at least one impact starter.

Non-tendering a player foregoes proceeding with their arbitration years and makes them a free agent, where they are then free to sign with another organization and retain their remaining arbitration years with that club. In early December of last year, the Blue Jays non-tendered Andy Dirks, John Mayberry Jr. and Justin Smoak, later to re-sign Smoak for a lesser salary.

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Players returning to their non-tender team on a smaller free agent deal is not unheard of, but it’s not necessarily worth banking on. The first place the Blue Jays will look is left field, where both Michael Saunders and Ben Revere are candidates.

Revere is projected to earn $6.7 million in arbitration entering 2016, a number that the Blue Jays surely wish was lower. He’s worth that salary on the open market, but with Michael Saunders and the even-more-affordable Dalton Pompey waiting in the wings behind him, that $6.7 million could be better spent elsewhere. Perhaps David Pri– No. No, I won’t say it.

Saunders might be an ideal candidate to non-tender and attempt to bring back at a lower value, especially given the uncertain nature of his 2016 projection following the knee injury that wiped out nearly all of his debut season with the Jays. His $2.7 million projected salary is far from disastrous, though, assuming he plays even close to his talent level.

Josh Thole represents another case the Blue Jays will need to examine, as his projected arbitration number of $1.8 million is awfully steep for what he offers. Last week we looked at how the Humberto Quintero signing might point to Josh Thole earning a spot on the MLB roster as R.A. Dickey‘s personal catcher. If Thole is assured a spot on the big roster, or at least the inside track in a competition, would he re-up with the Jays for something closer to the veteran minimum?

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There’s a chance the organization could pull the plug on Steve Delabar, who’s projected to earn $700,000 in 2016, but that seems entirely counter-intuitive at this point given their limited bullpen depth. Another less-likely candidate could be a repeat non-tender for first baseman Justin Smoak, who’s looking at a $2.0 million salary next season. His game can be frustrating, but exposing him to free agency would also expose the Jays to an uncomfortable level of risk given the expiring contract of Encarnacion and the possibility that Colabello’s slow-rollers stop finding holes.

Going back to the top, with Revere especially, the most important factor is whether the Blue Jays feel they can find a suitable trading partner later in the winter. Past that, would ownership give the green light to spending Revere’s $6.7 million elsewhere with the understanding that his contract would be dealt before opening day to balance that out? This non-tender deadline puts a lot of balls in the air, but thankfully, it usually works to spur some increased offseason action.