Non-Tendered Baseball: Impact on Players and Teams

Pat Bloom

Updated on:

non tendered baseball

In the high-stakes world of Major League Baseball, teams constantly evaluate their rosters to maximize performance and value. One critical aspect of this evaluation is the decision to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players.

When a team opts not to offer a contract, the player becomes “non-tendered,” making them a free agent and free to sign with any team. This process can be a turning point in a player’s career, offering both risks and opportunities.

Take Rowdy Tellez, for instance. Despite a promising past, his recent decline in performance metrics, including a drop in average exit velocity and hard-hit rate, led to his non-tender status.

Similarly, Nick Senzel’s struggles highlight how a change of scenery might be exactly what some players need to reignite their careers.

As teams gear up for the next season, the non-tender list becomes a hotbed for potential bargains and comeback stories.

Understanding Non-Tendered Baseball

In baseball, the term “non-tendered” refers to the process by which a team decides not to offer a contract to one of its arbitration-eligible players by the deadline.

Let me break it down:

What Does Non-Tendered Mean?

In Major League Baseball, arbitration-eligible players who haven’t performed well may face non-tendering. Non-tendering occurs when a team decides not to offer a contract to a player for the upcoming season.

This happens before the arbitration process begins. When a player is non-tendered, they become a free agent immediately.

Teams often make this decision if the player’s projected arbitration salary is higher than the value the team believes the player can provide.

Impact on Players and Teams

Non-tendering has significant implications for both players and teams. For players, being non-tendered means entering the free-agent market, allowing them to negotiate with any team, including their previous one.

However, this also introduces uncertainty regarding their future employment and salary. For instance, Cody Bellinger and Jeimer Candelario found themselves in this position but turned it around with successful one-year contracts, now being among top free agents.

For teams, non-tendering offers a strategic move to manage payroll and roster flexibility. It allows them to free up roster spots and financial resources for potentially more impactful players.

Teams might non-tender players who pose injury risks or whose performance metrics have declined, as seen with Rowdy Tellez.

While there’s risk in letting players go, there’s also the potential for picking up previously non-tendered players who might exceed expectations.

In 2012, players like Joe Saunders, Jeff Keppinger, and Jose Mijares performed well after being non-tendered.

Key Reasons Players Are Non-Tendered

Players are non-tendered by their teams for several key reasons:

Salary Cap Constraints

Teams often non-tender players to manage their salary cap effectively. Arbitration-eligible players may demand higher salaries, pushing teams over their desired payroll limits.

By non-tendering these players, teams can allocate funds to other essential areas or acquire new talent while staying within budget.

For example, high projected salaries like Zac Gallen’s $10.9 million or Max Fried’s $14.4 million might prompt teams to consider non-tendering to save resources.

Performance Considerations

Player performance critically influences non-tendering decisions. Teams assess whether players’ recent performances justify their expected arbitration salaries.

Subpar performances, like Rowdy Tellez’s drop in hard-hit rate and exit velocity or Nick Senzel’s inability to meet expectations, often lead to non-tendering.

This allows teams to reassess their roster and potentially replace underperforming players with more promising ones.

Strategy and Team Building

Non-tendering aligns with broader team strategies and long-term building plans. Teams might non-tender players not fitting into their future vision or those considered injury risks.

By freeing up roster spots, teams can promote younger talents or make room for strategic acquisitions. This strategic approach ensures that teams stay competitive and flexible, ready to adapt to evolving game dynamics.

Notable Non-Tendered Players in Recent Seasons

Here are some notable non-tendered players from recent MLB seasons:

Pitchers Who Made a Comeback

Baseball has seen its fair share of pitchers who made impressive comebacks after facing challenges, whether due to injuries, performance slumps, or other factors.

Here are a few notable examples:

Rich Hill

Rich Hill’s career is a story of perseverance and resilience. He struggled with injuries and inconsistency early in his career but found success later on.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery and bouncing around several teams, Hill revitalized his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Despite being in his late 30s, he became a key starter for the Dodgers, showcasing his curveball mastery and pitching skills.

Ryan Vogelsong

Ryan Vogelsong’s career had its ups and downs, including multiple stints in the minor leagues and overseas. After struggling to find success in his early MLB career, Vogelsong experienced a resurgence with the San Francisco Giants in 2011.

He became an integral part of the Giants’ rotation, contributing to their World Series championships in 2012 and 2014.

Josh Hamilton

While primarily known as a position player, Josh Hamilton also had a brief but memorable stint as a pitcher. Hamilton’s career was derailed by substance abuse issues, leading to multiple suspensions and struggles with injuries.

However, he made a remarkable comeback with the Texas Rangers in 2007 as an outfielder and later became an All-Star and American League MVP.

In a unique twist, Hamilton also pitched in a game for the Rangers in 2009, showcasing his versatility and determination.

Daniel Bard

Daniel Bard’s story is one of resilience after battling through the yips, a condition that severely impacted his ability to throw strikes.

Once a promising reliever for the Boston Red Sox, Bard struggled with control issues that plagued his career. After several years away from the game, Bard made a remarkable comeback with the Colorado Rockies in 2020.

He regained his form as a dominant reliever, showcasing his fastball and slider to become the Rockies’ closer.

Fielders Finding New Teams

Fielders who’ve been non-tendered also have stories of resurgence. Despite being initially undervalued or seen as injury risks, many find new opportunities and thrive.

For instance, Rowdy Tellez, who struggled in his last season with a .691 OPS, faced non-tender predictions with a projected salary of $6.6 million.

Tellez’s primary strength lies in clobbering right-handed pitching, but his recent performance metrics led the Brewers to consider moving on.

Non-tendering isn’t limited to performance issues. Teams also manage their 40-man rosters and consider injury risks.

Fielders like Nick Burdi, projected at $800k, or Matt Bush at $2.1 million, might be non-tendered to free up roster spots.

Players such as Jimmy Cordero, with a projected salary of $900k, and Adam Cimber, projected at $3.2 million, demonstrate the strategic decisions teams make.

Post non-tendering, these players often sign with new teams and make significant contributions, proving their value on the field.

The Process and Timeline of Non-Tender Decisions

The process and timeline of non-tender decisions in Major League Baseball typically follow a set schedule:

Key Dates in the MLB Calendar

Several key dates hold importance in the non-tender decision process within MLB’s calendar. Typically, the non-tender deadline falls in late November or early December.

By this date, teams must offer arbitration-eligible players a contract. If a player doesn’t receive a contract offer by the deadline, they’re non-tendered and become a free agent.

This timeframe allows teams to evaluate their roster needs post-World Series, aligning with the start of free agency and the annual Winter Meetings. During this period, strategic planning peaks, and decisions about roster composition get made.

The Role of Arbitration in Non-Tender Decisions

Arbitration plays a central role in determining which players receive tenders. When a player becomes arbitration-eligible, their performance and comparable player salaries set their projected salary.

MLB Trade Rumors often provides salary projections for arbitration-eligible players, aiding teams in financial planning. If a player is projected to earn a significant salary without commensurate performance, teams often non-tender them.

This decision allows teams to avoid potentially overcommitting financially while maintaining budget flexibility. It is not just about performance; factors like service time, injury history, and roster space also influence these decisions.

Effects of Non-Tender Decisions on the MLB Market

The non-tender deadline in MLB can have significant effects on the player market and team rosters:

Influence on Free Agency

Non-tender decisions significantly impact MLB free agency. Players not tendered contracts immediately become free agents, increasing the pool of available talent.

For instance, Kyle Lewis and Yonny Chirinos joined free agency after being non-tendered, providing teams with additional options for roster improvements.

The influx of non-tendered players can lead to heightened competition among teams, driving aggressive pursuit of undervalued assets.

Long-Term Impacts on Player Careers and Team Dynamics

Non-tendering can alter player careers and team chemistry substantially. Players like Miguel Andujar and Ramon Laureano, who were non-tendered, often seek new opportunities to revive their careers.

A change of scenery can result in increased performance, similar to Trayce Thompson finding success after his non-tender. For teams, non-tender decisions improve financial flexibility, enabling strategic adjustments to their 40-man rosters.

However, these moves can also disrupt team dynamics if key contributors are let go, necessitating careful evaluation by front offices.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does non-tendering mean in Major League Baseball?

Non-tendering in Major League Baseball means a team has chosen not to offer a contract to a player who is under club control for the upcoming season, effectively making him a free agent.

Why do teams non-tender players?

Teams non-tender players for reasons such as salary constraints, performance levels, strategic team building, and maintaining financial flexibility. They might also do so to free up roster spots.

Can non-tendered players still play in MLB?

Yes, non-tendered players become free agents and can sign with any team, potentially receiving new opportunities and contracts elsewhere in the MLB.

What is the role of arbitration in non-tender decisions?

Arbitration helps determine projected salaries for arbitration-eligible players. If a team’s management deems the projected salary too high relative to performance, they may choose to non-tender the player.

How does non-tendering affect the MLB market?

Non-tendering increases the pool of available talent in the free agent market, driving competition among teams to sign newly available players, thus impacting market dynamics.


Non-tendering in Major League Baseball is more than just a financial maneuver; it’s a strategic tool that can redefine careers and reshape team dynamics.

By understanding the intricacies of this process, fans and analysts can better appreciate the delicate balance teams strike between performance and budget.

The ripple effects of non-tender decisions extend beyond the immediate roster, influencing free agency and the broader market.

As players navigate the uncertainties and opportunities that come with non-tendering, their resilience and adaptability often shine through, leading to remarkable comebacks and fresh starts.

Teams capitalize on non-tendering to optimize their rosters, often uncovering hidden talent or paving the way for emerging prospects. This strategic approach underscores the evolving nature of baseball management.

Photo of author

Pat Bloom

I lead Washington University in St. Louis' baseball team, emphasizing skill development, strategic play, and sportsmanship. Our rigorous training and competitive spirit cultivate discipline and teamwork, preparing athletes for success both in baseball and academics. We embody the determination and sportsmanship that define our university's athletics. LinkedIn

Leave a Comment