If there's anything I've learned about baseball over the past twenty something odd years of my life, it's that baseball loves deadlines. Actually, I don't know if that's true or not, but there is a big deadline tonight, and sure enough, the Mariners are going to be involved. Well, actually, they'll be involved, sure, but it probably isn't going to be a huge story.
Tonight, at 10pm PST, is the non-tender deadline, which sounds like something related to food, but is actually all about contracts and salaries and other messy things that fill that hulking gap between today and April, when there is actually baseball being played. Essentially, this is the deadline for all teams to tender a contract to arbitration eligible players. Anyone not tendered a contract by tonight's deadline becomes a free agent, while anyone offered a contract enters arbitration. Tender tender tender is the night.
So how does this affect the Mariners? Well, by tonight, we should see what the Mariners plan to do with Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders. Both players are arbitration eligible for the first time in their careers, and while the M's corner outfield/first base plans are far from settled, it seems doubtful either player is going to walk, especially considering neither will demand a ludicrous contract in this whole process.
Here's where Smoak and Saunders sit as of last year:
Interestingly, both players were almost arbitration eligible last year, which would have made them Super 2 players--giving them an extra year of arbitration and potentially inflating their contracts pretty early on. The Mariners...how shall we put this...strategically played Saunders in 2012, leaving him one day short of Super 2 eligibility. Oh, a lucky accident you may say. Convenient. Well, they did the same exact thing to Charlie Furbush this year, so once again we are stuck choosing sides between the millionaires and the billionaires. Was it right to nefariously hold back certain players in order to save money by stunting their career paths? Is it right to pay Justin Smoak more than a million dollars? These are the big questions in baseball, and I'm just glad I don't have to answer them. Oh, and stay tuned for my hot new take on the Trout Cabrera debate.
(edit--as our trusty Logan Davis has pointed out, the Mets are responsible for screwing Charlie Furbush out of Super 2 status, not the Mariners. Still, I'm going to just close my eyes and pretend this speaks to some larger owners vs players conspiracy unfolding in front of our faces. Responsible? I don't know. Probably not. But hey, they could give us something else to talk about in these down months so we don't have to resort to such brazen tactics. Ball is in their court.)
In short, the M's probably aren't going to non-tender Saunders or Smoak tonight, but stranger things have happened. First-year arbitration players don't demand monster contracts, and while Saunders and Smoak are hardly the building blocks the front office once thought they were, you can't trade them or platoon them without keeping them, so don't expect anything too crazy to come over the baseball wires this afternoon. Though if I'm wrong holy shit baseball you are crazy lets keep doing crazy things. Wait, now twitter is telling me something about Willie Bloomquist. Baseball, you really are crazy. Keep it up.