Monday, December 2nd is the deadline for MLB teams to tender 2020 contracts to players under team control. After trimming non-tender candidates Devon Travis, Ryan Tepera and Tim Mayza over the last month, the Blue Jays have six remaining arbitration-eligible players. Ken Giles is the only lock to be tendered a contract, so we’ll look at the cases of the other five leading into the deadline.
Background: Signed as a free agent in December 2018 after non-tendered by LAA; career 7.9 fWAR / 7.1 bWAR in 573.2 innings
2019 production: 0.6 fWAR / 1.2 bWAR in 28.2 innings, a strong start to his season before suffering a season ending ACL tear in late April at Oakland.
2020 Steamer projection: 5.04 ERA / 5.00 FIP in 149 innings, 1.4 WAR. Which frankly seems both far too optimistic on innings (one career season above that) and too pessimistic on production (one season above that FIP, none ERA) — though the bottom line number might be about right. His Marcel projection at Baseball-Reference is 77 innings at 4.21 ERA, which seems far more on point.
Status: 5.166 years of service, $3.5-million platform year salary, two option years remaining but service time to block any optional assignment
2020 MLBTR Salary Projection: $3.8-million
Estimated likelihood of tender: 98%
Six days of major league service.
That’s all that stands between Matt Shoemaker and free agency, which would obviate this last trip through arbitration entirely. Had the Salt Lake Bees not made the PCL playoffs in 2013 and made a run to the finals, Shoemaker would have been called up a week or two earlier than September 16th. Or had he been optioned for a week less in 2014, or not at all for a handful of days in 2015 and 2016...it’s funny how small things can have outsize impact years later.
But that’s not the case, and instead the Blue Jays have exclusive right to his services in 2020 if they desire. And frankly, I don’t see a realistic scenario where the pitching-poor Blue Jays non-tender Shoemaker. To borrow a phrase from a thread yesterday touching on the subject, the notion “is almost too stupid to credit”.
And yet, throughout the 2019 season there were hints from the usual insiders that the Jays could non-tender Shoemaker to try and achieve a lower salary. That seemed to have died down by the beginning of the offseason, until Shi Davidi reported a couple weeks ago that “it appears the Blue Jays are simply playing out the clock to the Dec. 2 tender deadline” and that if “the sides don’t reach an agreement, the Blue Jays could non-tender Shoemaker”.
A grain of salt is in order, since this is coming from Sportsnet and quite possible this is ultimately being fed by the front office to try and turn up the heat. But it at least raises the spectre of a non-tender, and frankly there’s not a whole lot else going on to write about, so here we are with Shoemaker included at the tail end of this series. #content
Davidi rightly points on that it’s a complex arbitration case given Shoemaker’s injury history in the last three years and consequent lack of comparables. MLBTR projected him for $4.3-million last year before he was non-tendered, that’s probably a more realistic starting point than the free agent salary he signed for (as we saw with Justin Smoak in 2015 and Darwin Barney in 2016). So perhaps with a small increase, the Jays could be looking at potential liability of $4.5-million if it went to a hearing.
The Jays seem loath to go that high, with Davidi reporting their initial offer as a cut to $3-million (perhaps with incentives?) and tacking on a 2021 club option. It totally makes sense that they’d want this, but it’s hard to see it as anything but a non-starter for Shoemaker, even though he’s open to a longer term extension.
So the question is whether this is just relatively pedestrian give and take in arbitration negotiations that for whatever reason has become far detailed in public than usual, or if it instead represents a more hard line ceiling on what they’re willing to commit to Shoemaker. Davidi suggests what strikes me a reasonable compromise, a one year deal at the same $3.5-million base salary with incentives to increase that if he’s healthy.
Perhaps the Jays don’t see much value in a pitcher with less than 60 innings thrown the last two years, and prefer to use the budget space and rotation spot elsewhere if Shoemaker is just a 2020 play. So they either work out a deal that provides control beyond 2020 on acceptable terms before the deadline, or non-tender on Monday and let him test the market and leave the door open as things develop. That seems counter-intuitive given their stated aggressiveness to add pitching, as this would add one more spot to backfill.
At the end of the day, if Shoemaker can be reasonably projected 100 innings at a 4.25 ERA in 2020, then I don’t see how it’s not worth tendering him even if it’s a one year deal. It’s hard to see even a high end arbitration award stopping them from doing anything else, and if nothing else he could be a decent trade chip at the deadline. But the background chatter seems to suggest a more unsettled situation that isn’t as straightforward as it otherwise would appear to be.
Should the Blue Jays tender a 2020 contract to Matt Shoemaker?
This poll is closed
Yes, but only if a multi-year extension seems feasible