The deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players is today at 6 p.m. Arizona time. We should know by the end of the day which of the 14 eligible arbitration candidates will be tendered It’s therefore a good time to look at the five players who came bottom of our poll for being tendered a contract.
Worth remembering that non-tendering a player does not necessarily mean they will be leaving the club. In December 2013, as the pitcher was recovering from his second Tommy John procedure, the D-backs chose not to tender Daniel Hudson a contract, largely to clear roster space. But a couple of weeks later, he still re-signed with Arizona, and played here for the next three seasons. So it’s possible that one or more of the players below will still have their services retained, albeit likely at a lower price than the estimated arbitration figures. It all depends on the two sides coming to an agreement. Does the player fit into future team plans? Or can they get a better deal elsewhere?
That said, here are the players for whom there was the lowest degree of enthusiasm for retaining at the estimated price-tag:
John Ryan Murphy (28), Arb-1 = $1.1M: 56.5%
Play below replacement level, be treated as replacement level. Murphy was worth -0.1 fWAR or -0.5 bWAR in 2018, though that doesn’t fully reflect his good defensive numbers in areas such as pitch framing. After a good start to the season, with a .950 OPS on June 1, his bat fell off a cliff, Murphy hitting .155/.209/.209 for a .418 OPS the rest of the way. There was still a majority in favor of retaining his services, probably reflecting the low cost, lack of internal alternatives, and the fact that it’s not as if he would be blocking any upcoming prospects. He also offers a platoon partner for Alex Avila (with a decent enough .690 OPS for his career against left-handers).
Matt Andriese (29), Arb-1 = $1.1M: 43.1%
Performed as a home-run derby pitcher after his arrival in Arizona, allowing eight long balls in just 19 innings of work, on his way to a 9.00 ERA. He’s not likely to be that bad next year, with an xFIP (FIP with a normalized HR rate) of 4.00. But his career ERA+ is 90 and the projection for 2019 is not much better, with Steamer having him at a 4.31 ERA. The main point in his favor is the low cost; reliever volatility is just as likely to work in his favor next season as against him, and he has major league experience. Alternatively, here’s a thought: the team could conceivably try converting him back to being a starter, which he was before this season? $1.1 would be cheap for a back of the rotation pitcher.
Chris Owings (27), Arb-3 = $3.6M: 35.0%
CO is perhaps the player most likely to follow the “release and catch” approach of Hudson, being non-tendered and then re-signed. Owings was below replacement level by both bWAR (-0.2) and fWAR (-0.8), though again was forced to play all over the field, starting at all three outfield positions, as well as second and third. That flexibility gives him some value, but with the re-signing of Eduardo Escobar and (hopefully) a healthy Jake Lamb, there doesn’t seem much room for him on the infield, unless the “Ketel Marte to center” plan which has been floated, comes to fruition. The lack of a starting spot makes him seem quite pricey for a bench role, especially as a Swiss Army knife player, capable of doing many things - just none of them particularly well.
Brad Boxberger (31), Arb-3 = $4.9M: 21.3%
Look at those shiny saves! Only six pitchers had more saves than Boxberger last year, but as with so many of our relievers, there was a sharp cut-off point of effectiveness. On July 24, he had a 2.89 ERA and saved 24 of 28 opportunities. Thereafter? A 7.88 ERA and the same four blown saves, in only 12 opportunities, leading him to lose the closer’s role. If he’s going to be the closer in 2019, the price tag is not outrageous, but if it ends up being Archie Bradley or Yoshihisa Hirano, then Boxberger becomes rather expensive for a set-up man. The team has shown a reluctance to overpay for saves before, preferring to target ex-closers like Fernando Rodney or, indeed, Boxberger. It’d be no surprise if they do the same again.
Shelby Miller (28), Arb-3 = $4.9M: 19.9%
The SnakePit has spoken: they have clearly had enough of Shelby and his shit, and aren’t even willing to spend Ken Kendrick’s money on him. It’s understandable, considering that since he arrived here, Miller has earned almost $14 million, yet has thrown a total of only 139 innings, and been worth -1.2 bWAR [fWAR views him more kindly, at +0.9]. If he had made a successful return from Tommy John surgery, it might well have been a different matter. But after four poor starts - each allowing five runs or more - Miller was back on the shelf, and it became another almost entirely lost season. with just sixteen innings thrown and an ERA in double digits. Would this be throwing good money after bad? Fans seem to think so.