Three players with direct ties to the Indians were non-tendered on Saturday; Danys Baez and Carl Sadler from the Indians, and Derek Thompson from the Dodgers. I’ll get to Thompson and his situation in a little bit.
I’m sure most of you have heard at least snippets of the various moves involving Baez, so I’ll try to summarize things. Danys Baez was signed out of Cuba in November of 1999, and was given a four-year, major-league contract. This meant that he was placed on the 40-man roster; his contract was very similar to the contract given to 2002 draft pick Jeremy Guthrie in years, but not dollars.
Baez spent all of 2000 in the minors, and parts of 2001. So at the end of this season, he had not accumulated enough service time to be eligible for arbitration. The Indians declined the option for a fifth year, which was worth $5M if picked up. Therefore, Baez was without a contract, and since he was not eligible for arbitratration, the Indians could sign him to any amount of their choosing, as long as it was at least 80% of his 2003 salary, which would have been $4.1M. Since his past performances didn’t warrent that amount of money, the Indians were looking at non-tendering him on December 20th. However, the front office came across a possible loophole that would allow them to keep Baez at less than $4.1M. On November 15th, they placed Baez on waivers. Because no one wanted him at his present salary, and because he was going to be non-tendered anyway, no team claimed him. The Indians then re-purchased his contract on November 20th, which they thought would nullify his previous salary and allow the Indians to sign him at a lower price. Obviously, Baez, his agent, and especially the players’ union, did not agree with this reasoning and threatened a grievance if the Indians tendered Baez a contract less than $4.1M/year. If the Indians would have lost the grievance, they may have been fined for the period of time Baez was not able to pursue offers on the open market. These damages could have approached $5M, much more than Baez would have gotten on the open market, so the Indians finally decided to back away from any protracted legal issues and cut ties with Baez.
The Indians can still sign him, but it’s not likely the Baez will return. All this goes back to the fact that Baez was given a lot of guarenteed money at an early age, and with the CBA, he would have gotten salary increases each of the next three years. Baez is still a great talent, but with his performances as a closer, he simply wasn’t worth the money. He’ll probably get no more than what the Indians offered him (2 year, $4M) on the open market, but that didn’t prevent him from declining the offer.
Carl Sadler is a lot more simpler. He’ll probably be re-signed to a minor-league contract this week or next. This non-tender was done mainly to make room for a free agent signing. With Baez and Sadler off the roster, the Indians should have enough room to sign a 2B (most likely Ron Belliard) and a free agent starter. The Indians did almost the same thing with Chris Magruder last year. If more room is needed, the obvious choices would be Tim Laker or Chad Durbin. Another middle reliever may be signed to replace Baez, but someone should emerge from an NRI (Howry, David Lee, Carrara, or a minor-leaguer).
The Dodgers non-tendered 2002 Rule 5 pick Derek Thompson on Saturday as well. I don’t know if this means he has to returned to the Indians, but unless this is another loophole, the Indians should be getting him back. Although it’s been a year since Thompson was selected, an arm injury prevented him from spending any time on the active roster. The rules stipualate that a player must spend a minimum of 90 days on a 25-man roster to be kept permanently, and this rule has not been met.