Wednesday, December 2nd, is the deadline for teams to tender their players that are arbitration eligible. This basically means that the Rangers are telling the player that they want him back. If they choose not to tender that player, than he will immediately become a free agent. The actual contract negotiations will happen in mid January. The Rangers currently have nine such players:
- Mitch Moreland
- Tom Wilhelmsen
- Chris Gimenez
- Shawn Tolleson
- Tanner Scheppers
- Robinson Chirinos
- Jake Diekman
- Jurickson Profar
- Nick Tepesch
I anticipate that all but one of those players will be offered new contracts and the one that doesn’t will be non-tendered. Before we run through these guys and make predictions, let’s start by understanding what arbitration is, how it works, and what happens to a non-tendered player.
Arbitration is a system developed to give guys with at least three years of MLB service time a chance to get a raise during their club control years. Years in which a team has complete control over the player before he can become a free agent. There are instances where a player with two years of service can become arbitration eligible, known as a Super-Two player but we won’t get into that right now.
Until the player gets to arbitration, the players typically makes the league minimum and this gives them a chance to make more money based on their performance thus far in the league. If a team decides they believe that a player isn’t worth the raise, they will non-tender the player. That makes the player a free agent immediately. That player can however re-sign with the same team, probably at a mutually agreed upon lower rate than what the arbitrator would have awarded.
If a player does not like the contract the team offered, they can reject the initial contract. The two sides would then attempt to negotiate a new deal based on what each side believes the player is worth. If no agreement is met by a certain date (typically February-ish) than the negotiations will head to an independent arbitrator (court) and then the courts will decide what the players salary is going to be.
For the record, the Rangers have not had an arbitration case go to court since 2000, a year in which they defeated former first basemen Lee Stevens.
So, let’s run down this years group and see who will make what and who might end up being a free agent.
Mitch Moreland –
2015 Salary – $2.9M
2016 Projected Salary – $5.6M
Last year, many people thought that Moreland was the prime non-tender candidate. He couldn’t stay healthy and therefore couldn’t put it all together for a full season. He had shown glimpses of what the Rangers thought he could be, but the injuries kept forcing him to the bench.
In 2015 however, Moreland stayed healthy for the most part and tied his career high for home runs (23) and set career highs in RBI (85), AVG (.278), OBP (.330) and SLG (.480). He’s projected to nearly double his salary according to MLB Trade Rumors.
I’d guess the Rangers offer around $4.5M and he will ask for $6.5M and they’ll settle right in the middle to reach the projected $5.6M.
Tom Wilhelmsen –
2015 Salary – $1.4M
2016 Projected Salary – $3.0M
This is an interesting case because the Rangers traded for him earlier this offseason. They think he’s worth something, obviously, but they’ll put on their poker face and attempt to offer him $2M and I’d be willing to bet that they settle somewhere in the $2.5-2.75M range. Just short of the MLB Trade Rumors prediction.
Chris Gimenez –
2015 Salary – $510,000
2016 Projected Salary – $1M
With Bobby Wilson and Carlos Corporan no longer with the team, Gimenez and fellow backstop Robinson Chirinos are all the Rangers have at the moment and unless they make a move in free agency, this is the tandem that they will roll with. Gimenez developed a good rap with the pitchers and saw an uptick in power and had some key hits down the stretch which will allow him to get a nice raise.
I predict he will get $750,000 to the $1M range. Being is that he is 32, that is working against him at this point and there is no guarantee that he stays with the club all year. I don’t see the Rangers committing too much money to him if they don’t have to.
Shawn Tolleson –
2015 Salary – $519,700
2016 Projected Salary – $2.6M
Tolleson had an incredible year in his first year as a closer. He finished with 35 saves and even finished 10th in the AL Cy Young race – as a first year closer. Impressive. However, Texas may have been a little tepid with him in the postseason as fellow bullpen mate Sam Dyson got the Rangers first save chance against Toronto.
Tolleson was used heavily late in the season and perhaps Banister felt like he was overworked and didn’t want to put him in that type of situation. I don’t know. No matter the reason, Tolleson is going to get paid. I believe that he will get every bit of the predicted $2.6M if not more. I feel like $3M is a fair number.
Tanner Scheppers –
2015 Salary – $515,200
2016 Projected Salary – $800,000
I believe this is the non-tender candidate. Scheppers was absolutely terrible last year. There’s no nice way to say it. He was awful. The Rangers acquired Tom Wilhelmsen and unless they are using him to flip in a bigger deal, he is essentially replacing Scheppers.
Maybe he will go to Cleveland and get into another bar fight.
Robinson Chirinos –
2015 Salary – $518,290
2016 Projected Salary – $1.4M
Chirinos will open the season as the teams #1 catcher. He’s cheap, productive, and has a decent arm. His framing metrics aren’t that great but he can handle the staff and hold his own with lumber.
For a catcher that will hit you 10-12 home runs, drive in 40 runs, and get on base over 30% of the time, I believe $1.5M is a nice bargain. He’ll get paid his due for two really nice seasons.
Jake Diekman –
2015 Salary – $535,000
2016 Projected Salary – $1M
Diekman, who was considered a throw-in piece to the Cole Hamels deal was a gem of a find by the Rangers brass. Diekman was pretty much lights out during the second half and was a big contributor to the Rangers improbable run to the postseason.
His walk rate and ERA were cut considerably when he moved to the AL which was a bit unexpected but the Rangers saw something, tweaked it, and voila, another Rangers masterpiece. I believe he will get closer to $1.5M rather than the $1M that is projected.
Jurickson Profar –
2015 Salary – $509,500
2016 Projected Salary – $508,000
I have no idea why MLB Trade Rumors is projected Profar to take a pay cut but there is no way in hell that is happening, especially considering that his agent his Scott Boras. Profar is actually one of the Super Two players that we mentioned earlier which means that he was in the top 22% of games played of players in the league two years. It just means that he get to arbitration one year earlier which means that his additional arbitration years will be more expensive.
Seeing is how Boras is his agent, I’d be willing to bet that Profar gets $1M despite missing most or all of the last two seasons due to injury. I believe he shouldn’t get any kind of raise seeing is how he received a full playoff share (north of $34K), missed all of 2014 and 2015 but alas, I’m not the boss.
Profar could end up breaking the Rangers streak of not going to a hearing for an arbitration case, especially if Boras demands a contract in the seven digit range.
Nick Tepesch –
2015 Salary – $517,760
2016 Projected Salary – $508,000
Again, MLB Trade Rumors apparently not doing all their homework but Tepesch isn’t taking a pay cut. That just isn’t happening despite missing all year with an injury.
Despite a lower ERA in 2014 compared to 2013, Tepesch regressed significantly. His K rate was down, walk rate was up, and FIP was way up too but the Rangers believe in the young arm and believe that he can contribute to the rotation as long as he is healthy. As a matter of fact, the Rangers are hoping Tepesch can compete for a rotation spot this spring.
He’ll get some sort of raise though, nothing significant but probably something around $600,000 or so would be my guess.
So all in all I feel like the Rangers will go to a hearing with one player, sign seven more and non-tender Tanner Scheppers. Remember, we should get preliminary figures of all players starting today or tomorrow for sure. We’ll see how bad I am at predicted salaries.
Once all this has completed, I will publish an updated 2016 Payroll prediction.