Nearing non-tender deadline offers intrigue

Clubs have until 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday to offer contracts, or players become free agents

Nearing non-tender deadline offers intrigue

The recent addition of Jordan Zimmermann to the pitching staff of the Detroit Tigers was the first post-Thanksgiving bonanza in the free-agent market, and there will be plenty more marquee maneuvers coming before your Christmas stocking is even stuffed.

But the biggest-name moves of the offseason don't always end up being the most impactful when the regular season starts. Sometimes, in fact, it's the little things that matter.

With that in mind, consider the annual non-tender deadline. Major League clubs have until 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday to offer, or "tender," contracts to players who are eligible for arbitration or to players who are not yet eligible for arbitration but are on a club's 40-man roster.

The contract offers don't come with a specific amount -- yet -- but they ensure that the team will have control over the player for the 2016 season.

If the team non-tenders the player, that means the player is a free agent and can sign with any other team.

If a player is tendered a contract, he will then negotiate details of a deal with the team or, in the extreme case that the two sides cannot agree and the player is arbitration-eligible, the two parties will go to a hearing and have the 2016 salary determined for them.

There are a number of reasons why a club would non-tender a player. It could be because their current team doesn't have a place for them on their roster. It could be that the projected payroll won't allow for a player's projected salary. It could be the result of a mutual agreement to give a guy a fresh start somewhere else. And, sometimes, it can be the result of a mistake by the team that's letting the player go.

That means good players are often non-tendered, which often makes this deadline an intriguing one to watch.

The best example of this has been rehashed recently now that Red Sox superstar slugger David Ortiz has announced that 2016 will be the final season in his illustrious career. It's worth noting that said career was not quite illustrious after Ortiz's 2002 season with the Minnesota Twins.

The gregarious first baseman, who would later become the icon known as Big Papi, hit .203 against lefties for the Twins in 2002, was non-tendered that offseason and signed a one-year, $1 million deal with Boston before the 2003 season.

If you don't remember how that one turned out, here's recently retired Torii Hunter, Ortiz's former Twins teammate, to remind you.

"David always could hit," Hunter said. "I still don't understand why the Twins non-tendered him. Now that I'm older, I'm really like, 'That was stupid.'

"The worst mistake [Twins GM] Terry Ryan ever made was to non-tender David Ortiz. Boston got a diamond in the rough in 2003 and gave him a shot. He led those boys to the World Series championship. David Ortiz turned that franchise around. They might not say it, but I saw it."

Last year, non-tenders such as Kris Medlen and Chaz Roe ended up helping their new teams. Medlen came back from his second Tommy John surgery in the latter part of the regular season and gave the Royals' bullpen and starting rotation a boost that assisted them in their World Series title run. Roe became a valuable piece in the Orioles' relief corps.

Intriguing possibilities for non-tenders this year include infielders Pedro Alvarez, Will Middlebrooks, Mark Trumbo, Chris Carter and Brandon Moss, outfielders Ben Revere, Michael Saunders and Peter Bourjos, starter Henderson Alvarez and relievers Greg Holland, Jenrry Mejia and Addison Reed, but we won't know until Wednesday.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.