As December arrives, the Nationals’ offseason has been divided between a monumental decision and miniscule transactions. Since they hired Matt Williams as manager, the Nationals have made a series of minor league signings, internal promotions and a small trade. They have poked around the free agent left-handed reliever market and perhaps laid groundwork for a significant trade for starting pitching.
The Nationals’ offseason should start to crank up this week, starting with today’s non-tender deadline. By midnight Monday, the Nationals (along with the 29 other clubs) must offer contracts to their arbitration-eligible players or else make them eligible for free agency. The Nationals have eight such players. Here they are, along with their estimated 2014 salary, per the calculations of MLBTradeRumors.com:
Jordan Zimmermann: $10.5 million
Ian Desmond: $6.9 million
Tyler Clippard: $6.2 million
Drew Storen: $3.6 million
Stephen Strasburg: $3.9 million
Ross Detwiler: $2.8 million
Wilson Ramos: $2.1 million
Ross Ohlendorf: $1.3 million
Even if they trade or extend some of those players later this winter, the Nationals will likely tender contracts to all of them today. All but Ohlendorf seem to be no-brainers, and if Ohlendorf can come close to replicating his fine work in 2013 over a full season, his $1.3 million salary would be a bargain.
While the non-tender deadline should do little to change the complexion of the Nationals’ roster, it could help shape some decisions. As other teams cut ties with players they deem too expensive, some options the Nationals find attractive may shake loose. The Nationals could find a left-handed reliever, a backup catcher or a backup infielder in the new crop of free agents.
As for the Nationals’ own players, they will determine their actual salaries – or perhaps be prompted to reach an agreement on an extension – as the winter wears on. The key deadline is Jan. 17, when salary figures must be exchanged. Player and team each submit the salary they request, which allows for a negotiating parameter. Arbitration hearings, which have grown increasingly rare, start Feb. 1.
By then, surely, the Nationals’ offseason will have a much livelier feel.