Non-tender deadline nears

Non-tender deadline nears

Tuesday is a day every general manager has circled on their calendar because it is the day teams must offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players.

If a team does not formally tender -- that is, offer -- a contract by Dec. 20, the player is granted free agency. Players not offered are called non-tenders, and while the name refers to contractual aspects, the term "non-tender" also fits because many of these decisions can be extremely tough for GMs.

The Dec. 20 decisions can also be extremely lucrative for a few lucky teams able to capitalize on the day.

Just ask the Red Sox.

On Dec 16, 2002, Minnesota decided to non-tender David Ortiz rather than risk costly arbitration with the designated hitter.

Ortiz became a free agent, signed with the Red Sox on Jan. 22, 2003, and has been a force for Boston ever since.

Few non-tenders go on to deliver the kind of results Ortiz did, but each year there are non-tenders who go on to help a new team.

Last year, shortstop David Eckstein was non-tendered by the Angels before signing with St. Louis two days later. Houston parted ways with Wade Miller, who wound up with Boston. The Reds non-tendered John Riedling. Dustan Mohr and So Taguchi were non-tenders.

Two years ago, Colorado non-tendered Scott Elarton and Pittsburgh let Mike Lincoln go. Elarton re-signed with the Rockies, was released and eventually latched on with Cleveland. Lincoln was picked up by the Cardinals.

"It always adds a few more options to the free agent pool," Pittsburgh GM Dave Littlefield said of the non-tender date. "And if you have guys in that [category], it can be tough [to decide which way to go]."

This year, another intriguing class of potential non-tenders will be identified and added to the free agent pool on Tuesay.

GMs shopping for help may have non-tender options at every position.

Here's a look at a few of the players who might be non-tendered:

RHP Joe Borowski. Even though Borowski was arguably the MVP of the Devil Rays' second half in 2005, he may be the odd man out if the Rays sign Japanese setup man Shinji Mori.

RHP Gil Meche. He'll probably make around $4 million and hasn't improved the way the Mariners hoped.

RHP Ryan Franklin. Two rough years in a row for Seattle.

RHP Dan Kolb. The Brewers traded for Kolb at the Winter Meetings and would like to give him a chance to return to 2004 form, but only if he agrees to be non-tendered and re-signed at a significantly reduced price than the $3.4 million he made last year from Atlanta.

3B Russell Branyan. The Brewers plan to start Bill Hall at third base and decided to re-sign veteran Jeff Cirillo as a backup. Prospect Corey Hart played third base in the Arizona Fall League and could serve as a utility man, potentially leaving Branyan without a job. Branyan missed a month last season with a broken middle finger, but more troublingly he struggled all season with a mysterious shoulder injury. He could offer the team a power left-handed bat off the bench, and the Brewers talked at times last season about using him as a backup in the outfield.

1B Hee Seop Choi. Deemed expendable by the Dodgers.

CF Corey Patterson. Cubs are trying to deal him now that they have Juan Pierre.

RHP Jim Brower. The Braves could likely sign him for around $1 million. But management made it known at the end of the 2005 season that they likely wouldn't bring him back. The veteran right-hander never showed consistency after being claimed off waivers in June.

Others possibly joining the non-tender ranks include catchers Jason Phillips (Dodgers) and Geronimo Gil (Orioles); infielders Junior Spivey (Nationals), Willie Harris (White Sox), Willie Bloomquist (Mariners) and Henry Mateo (Nationals); and pitchers Ramon Ortiz (Reds) and Kyle Lohse (Twins).

The Yankees, Pirates, Tigers, Athletics, Blue Jays, Marlins and Cardinals are expected to offer contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players.

Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. MLB.com site reporters contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.