At Monday night’s deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players, the Washington Nationals cut ties with left-handed reliever Doug Slaten and tendered their other six players slated for arbitration — Michael Morse, John Lannan, Tyler Clippard, Tom Gorzelanny, Jesus Flores and Jordan Zimmermann.
The Nationals effectively have until mid-February to reach deals with their tendered players in order to avoid arbitration with them. Players can officially file for arbitration from Jan. 5 through Jan. 15, and the sides must exchange proposed salary figures by Jan. 18. Hearings, if necessary, will be held from Feb. 1 through Feb. 21.
The Nationals and Slaten, who made $695,000 last year, had initial talks about a pre-arbitration deal, but the discussions never gained traction. Slaten will not be signing with the Nationals, looking instead for a team where he would have a better shot at making the roster.
Slaten performed well for the Nationals in 2010 before injury and ineffectiveness derailed him last year. Slaten pitched only 161 / 3 innings, allowing eight earned runs and 15 inherited runners to score. He had history with Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo, who drafted Slaten when he worked for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Among the six players to whom the Nationals tendered contracts, the only difficult decision came with Gorzelanny, who will likely serve as a left-handed long reliever. Gorzelanny started 15 games last season before the Nationals moved him to the bullpen. For somewhere between $2.5 million and $3 million, most likely, the Nationals will get a pitcher who gives them depth as a starter and who last year pitched reliably as a reliever.
There was also a slight question whether the Nationals would or would not tender Flores, but the Nationals currently see the 27-year-old as the primary backup to catcher Wilson Ramos. Considering he’ll likely make less than $1 million, the Nationals had little incentive to let Flores go.
After taking relievers Sean Burnett and Brian Bruney to arbitration in 2010, and winning both cases, the Nationals last winter did not undergo any arbitration hearings, a contentious process most teams prefer to avoid.
“We’ve shown that we’ll go to arbitration with people,” Rizzo said at the general managers meetings last month. “But we don’t want to go to arbitration.”
The Nationals could consider a multiyear extension for Morse, who is eligible for arbitration for the second time after his breakout 2011 season. A two-year deal, for example, would push Morse through his arbitration-eligible years.
“I think I’d be open to it,” Rizzo said. “We’re talking about things. We think he’s a guy that’s going to be a big piece for us.”
Zimmermann, a 25-year-old already at the top of their rotation, could also be a candidate for a contract extension. The Nationals may also discuss a multiyear deal for Clippard similar to the one they signed last winter with Burnett for two years with an option for a third.
By non-tendering Slaten, the Nationals reduced their 40-man roster to 36 players.