Players who aren’t guaranteed contracts, but have not reached free agency, do not have to be retained by their current team. Franchises can look at their expected cost, typically in arbitration, and simply decide they’re not worth it. The player then becomes a free agent, able to sign for any team, and their previous owner is off the hook for any future salary. Last season, for example, the D-backs went that route with Taylor Clarke, who was otherwise going to be a “Super 2” player, going through his first of four years of arbitration. The team had interest in bringing him back on a minor-league deal, but he signed with the Royals and had quite a good year: 102 ERA+ over 49 IP. Better than most of our pen, certainly...
Most players in such situations this year for Arizona are no-brainers. You do not have to think very hard, for example, about whether Zac Gallen’s services should be retained. But there are two players whose tenure of Arizona might be on thin ice, in Jordan Luplow and Caleb Smith. There’s a case to be made, both that the team could use the money, and also put the 40-man roster spot to better use. With the Rule 5 draft coming up, the spot could be needed to protect one of Arizona’s prospects from being snatched away. Let’s take a look at Luplow and Smith; you can tell us what you think in the polls too.
Just remember last season though, when many fan were calling for Christian Walker to be non-tendered, and make room for Pavin Smith or Seth Beer... How did that work out?
Outfielder Luplow was dealt by Tampa Bay to Arizona in November, for infield prospect Ronny Simon (who is having a nice Arizona Fall League session, batting .320 with a .922 OPS). The aim was to provide some thump from the right, in an outfield which skewed heavily left-handed. On that basis, I guess it worked, Luplow hitting 11 home-runs in 203 at-bats. However, it came with a terrible .176 batting average: that was the lowest of any hitter with double-digit homers in the National League. He actually had a lower average with the platoon advantage, though this was countered by more pop, and his OPS was 84 points higher vs. LHP (.673 vs. 589).
All told, he was barely better than replacement level, worth 0.1 bWAR and 0.2 fWAR. MLB Trade Rumors projects Luplow to earn $2 million. The outfield situation is still quite left-heavy, with Luplow and Stone Garrett the only pure right-handed hitters currently on the 40-man roster (switch-hitter Cooper Hummel is there too). Garrett is the most obvious competitor and had a very nice debut, posting a 136 OPS+ over his first 84 PA. However, that was heavily front-loaded. Over his final 15 games, Garrett went 4-for-39 with no walks and 17 strikeouts. He’ll be cheaper than Luplow, though with the new higher minimum wage ($720K next year), not all that much. Do we want to risk another Beer scenario?
Should we tender Jordan Luplow a contract at $1.5 million?
This poll is closed
Smith is in his final year of arbitration with an estimated cost of $2.7 million for 2022. He threw 70 innings this year, with an ERA of 4.11 (ERA+ of 98). However, that basic figure conceals two things. On the one hand, Caleb was considerably better after a terrible start. He was sent to Reno after allowing nine earned runs in his first four frames. When he came back, he posted a 3.14 ERA over the remaining 66 innings. However, some metrics suggest he was lucky to do so, with a Fielding Independent ERA (FIP) for the same time-frame, more than a run and a half worse, at 4.78. We saw with Madison Bumgarner this year that regression can be a harsh mistress.
Worse for Smith, it was announced last month that he has been diagnosed with a torn ligament in his throwing elbow. After receiving various opinions, Smith has opted to try rest and rehab, rather than heading straight for the operating table and Tommy John surgery. But if that proves necessary, he’ll miss the entire 2023 season anyway. At this point, going the non-invasive route makes sense. If, a couple of months down the road, it’s not working, then the timetable for surgery and recovery won’t have changed much. But it does leave the D-backs in a dilemma. They have to decide whether or not to tender Smith by the end of the month. I suspect medical information will play heavily into their decision.
Should we tender Caleb Smith a contract at $2.7 million?
This poll is closed