By midnight tonight, the Nationals will have to decide whether or not to tender contracts to their seven arbitration eligible players. Here’s a quick rundown of each:
John Lannan is eligible for arbitration for the second time and will stand to make about $5 million after his raise. Lannan is a steady performer and, because of his raise and having only one more year of team control after 2012, does not have particularly high trade value. Pencil him into the rotation again.
Michael Morse, eligible for arbitration for the second time, has a fascinating case after his breakout season. The Nationals will certainly bring him back, and they could consider a multi-year extension to get him through at least his final year of arbitration eligibility. “I think I’d be open to it,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said at the GM meetings in November. “We’re talking about things. We think he’s a guy that’s going to be a big piece for us.”
Tom Gorzelanny is a candidate to be non-tendered. The Nationals traded with the Cubs for Gorzelanny last year in part because he had two years of team control remaining. But Gorzelanny went 2-6 with a 4.46 ERA in 15 starts. He pitched well as a long reliever, but Gorzelanny made $2.8 million last year. Gorzelanny does not fit into the Nationals’ rotation, and it would be hard to see them paying the arbitration price for a pitcher who will probably serve as a long man.
Jordan Zimmermann is eligible for arbitration for the first time. As a clear-cut piece of their future core, Zimmermann could be a candidate for a multi-year extension. He showed no ill effects from Tommy John surgery last year and seems to be as close as there is to a sure thing.
Tyler Clippard is also eligible for arbitration for the first time. Given the skyrocketing salaries for relievers around baseball and his standing as one of the game’s best, Clippard could clear $2 million in arbitration. The Nationals could give him a deal similar to, but surely more expensive than, the one they gave Sean Burnett last season – a two-year deal with an option for a third.
Doug Slaten missed much of last season with a left elbow injury, and when he did pitch, he yielded eight earned runs in 16 1/3 innings while allowing 15 of the 32 runners he inherited to score. Rizzo knows Slaten well and likes him from their time together with the Diamondbacks. But if the Nationals bring the left-handed specialist back, it will likely be after they do not tender him a contract. He could probably be signed a minor league free agent with an invite to spring training.
Jesus Flores toggled between the majors and minors last season, but the Nationals are likely to tender him a contract. It helps that he only made $800,000 last year and does not stand to make much more this season. As of now, the Nationals see Flores as the backup to Wilson Ramos. Despite complications from his devastating shoulder injury, he’s still a rare commodity – a 27-year-old catcher who has proven he can play catcher on an everyday basis.