This Wednesday (Dec. 2) is an important date on the offseason calendar. It is the deadline for teams to tender their pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players a contract offer for next season. They don't have to sign their players before the deadline, but they do have to make an offer. Players who do not receive a contract offer are considered "non-tendered" and become free agents.
Every year a new batch of players join the free agent pool on the non-tender deadline. Teams typically non-tender players whose salary through arbitration outpaces their production, or players who are expected to miss significant time with injury. Last offseason's non-tenders included Kevin Gausman, Cesar Hernandez, Blake Treinen, and Taijuan Walker.
As teams have become more obsessed with ruthless efficiency in recent years, the number of non-tenders have climbed. Here's the number of players who were non-tendered each of the last five offseasons:
The expectation within baseball is a record number of players will be non-tendered this offseason as teams get their 2021 payrolls in order amid the COVID-19 pandemic. There are only so many ways to get money off the books in this game. Non-tendering players is the easiest way to do it. Non-tenders clear salary without the need to work out a trade or buyout.
Free agency has been slow-moving to date -- only six of our top 60 free agents have signed -- and I think the expected wave of non-tenders is at least partly to blame for that. Teams don't want to rush into any free agent deals without first seeing who gets non-tendered because better (and cheaper) players may soon be available. Free agency could pick up after Wednesday.
With non-tender day approaching, here is a look at the biggest decision each team is facing prior to the deadline. Some teams have it easy this year. Others are facing potential franchise-altering decisions. All 2021 salary projections come from MLB Trade Rumors.