Another major deadline is coming up this offseason, this one being the deadline to tender arbitration eligible players. The Diamondbacks have 15 arbitration eligible players, projected to have a combined salary around $52M. With $62.5M in guaranteed contracts, that projects the Diamondbacks opening day payroll to be around $120M. Payroll won’t end up being at that high a number given the team has some non-tender candidates on the 40-man roster. The team operated with a payroll of $106M in 2017 and Derrick Hall stated there won’t be a significant increase in payroll.
These are some of the non-tender candidates:
RHP Shelby Miller ($4.9M/Arb 2): The Miller deal has been nothing short of a disaster for the Diamondbacks. I won’t rehash that trade, but Miller got off to a hot start in 2017 before tearing the UCL of his throwing elbow 4 starts into the season and requiring Tommy John Surgery. If the Diamondbacks weren’t so stretched in terms of payroll, paying the $5M to keep him around and work him back would not have been a bad investment. Since Miller is unlikely to contribute before June, since I’m assuming the average between 12 and 18 months, the organization may feel that money is better spent on a guy who can contribute all season. If they can do a similar deal with Rubby De La Rosa offseason where they give him a low guaranteed contract with incentives that push the deal to a higher value than the $4.9M, I think he’ll take it.
RHP Randall Delgado ($2.5M/Arb 3): The same reason Miller is on this list is why Delgado is on the list, although Delgado’s elbow appears to be responding well from a platet-rich plasma treatment. Delgado missed the 2nd half of the season with a strained flexor tendon in his right elbow. It initially appeared that he would be back for the playoffs, but after more discomfort the team shut him down in the final month of the season. In order to speed up the healing process in the offseason, Delgado took the PRP injection in order to be healthy at the start of Spring Training. Based on GM Mike Hazen’s comments on the situation, Delgado will likely be tendered and the team will monitor his progress as he gets into his normal throwing program to prepare for the season.
RHP J.J. Hoover ($1.6M/Arb 2): Hoover’s ERA looked decent at the end of the season, but he also struggled with control for most of the season. Hoover posted the highest strikeout rate of his career, but at the same time posted the highest walk rate of his career. He was a bit unlucky with balls in play, with a BABIP of .367 and a HR/FB rate of 15.2%, both significantly higher than his career averages, which makes him a bounce-back candidate in 2018. At the same time, the walks are a huge issue for me, with Hoover posting the 3rd lowest K-BB% of his career (14.2%), a 1.77 WHIP, and a FIP of 4.71. xFIP and SIERA painted Hoover as a 4.00 ERA pitcher, which is right along with his 3.92 ERA. The Diamondbacks can probably replace Hoover with Jimmie Sherfy although I won’t complain if they bring him back and make him compete for a spot in the bullpen.
C Chris Herrmann ($1.4M/Arb 2): Herrmann was the quintessential 25th player on the roster in 2017 playing the role of 3rd string catcher/1B/OF while batting from the left side of the plate. After a blistering 2016 that was mostly fueled by a 2-month hot stretch in May-June, Herrmann regressed in 2017 back to a sub-replacement level player. Herrmann did provide some big hits for the Diamondbacks and produced a decent walk rate overall. However at the same time, I’m not convinced he’s a long term asset and worth keeping on a major league deal. Given the lack of catching depth in the organization, even with the addition of Jon Ryan Murphy (who is essentially Jeff Mathis 2.0) in September, Herrmann probably survives the non-tender deadline. If they do non-tender Herrmann, they should bring him back on a minor league deal because familarity with the pitching staff and his left-handed bat complementing the catchers on the roster today.
LHP T.J. McFarland ($1M/Arb 1): McFarland had a decent stretch in the first half of the season where he was an invaluable LHP in the pen before teams started figuring him out. McFarland had favorable platoon splits against LHH with a .233 wOBA against, but .362 against RHH. With the Diamondbacks needing to maximize every dollar they have, McFarland is a potential casualty even though he could be useful as a matchup lefty. With Jared Miller knocking on the door and being potentially a more cost-effective option, McFarland may be shown the door. I do think that the Diamondbacks should try to bring him back on a minor league deal.
Most of the Diamondbacks decisions on arbitration eligible players will come down to the bullpen, so I wouldn’t be surprise if all of them got tendered or none of them did. The most likely scenario I see happening is Hoover, Miller, Herrmann, and McFarland getting non-tendered although you can make the case for all of them coming back in 2018 for different reasons. As news breaks, we’ll have the updates here.
4:40PM: The Diamondbacks have non-tendered Hoover.
Diamondbacks are non-tendering RHP JJ Hoover, source tells SB Nation.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) December 1, 2017
5:30PM: Our other initialed reliever, T.J. McFarland, is also not the recipient of a contract.
#Dbacks tender contracts to 37 players for the 2018 season. RHP J.J. Hoover and LHP T.J. McFarland were not tendered contracts.— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) December 2, 2017
With McFarland and Hoover being the only non-tenders, that means Herrmann, Miller, and Delgado received tenders in addition to the other arbitration eligible players that weren’t listed above.