Time to tender

We’re a week away from the official start of the baseball Winter Meetings, an event that will take place in Orlando this year, but will prevent me from seeing more than three minutes of sunlight a day.

That’s typically how it works, regardless of which warm-weather location holds the meetings in that particular year. You make your way from your hotel room to the media work room, from the media work room to the lobby, from the lobby to the work room, and so on. The only exploring I’ll be doing will involve deciding which overpriced spot to hit up for lunch.

Pretty much the only time someone affiliated with the meetings leaves the Swan and Dolphin Resort, where the meetings are held in Orlando, is when they’re looking to hold a secret meeting in another location to avoid being spotted by the media or rival teams.

Other than that, everyone sets up shop and gets down to business. Should be an interesting three days (four, if you include Thursday, which pretty much just consists of the Rule 5 Draft), and I’ll obviously have you covered on all things Nationals here on MASNsports.com.

Today is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, meaning we’ll get some actual news flowing in throughout the day. The deadline is 11:59 p.m., but many teams will make their decisions public well before then, as they’re all well aware of which of their players will be non-tendered by now.

The Nationals have eight arbitration-eligible players this year, including some pretty big names. If all eight players are tendered contracts, MLBTradeRumors.com projects that they will end up earning more than $37 million combined in 2014, a large portion of which will go to Jordan Zimmermann, who is arbitration-eligible for the third time and could be due over $10 million this year.

Here are the Nats’ eight arbitration-eligible players this year:

Tyler Clippard
Ian Desmond
Ross Detwiler
Ross Ohlendorf
Wilson Ramos
Stephen Strasburg
Drew Storen
Jordan Zimmermann

Here’s how the process works as far as the tendering of contracts goes: If the Nats tender these players contracts, they will be locked in for 2014, but if a player is non-tendered, he becomes a free agent. Non-tendered players can and sometimes do re-sign with their original team, but they then negotiate a new salary for the 2014 season, instead of having that salary tied to the arbitration process.

Of the eight players listed above, most if not all will be tendered contracts by the Nationals. We’ve talked about how Clippard and Storen could make a combined $10 million in 2014, which is a lot for two set-up guys. But if the Nats have any interest in cutting ties with Clippard or Storen because of monetary reasons, they wouldn’t do so today. They would tender those guys a contract, and then subsequently look to deal them to another team, because, you know, you want to actually receive something in return when you’re giving up talented players.

The only possible non-tender candidate that I see in there is Ohlendorf, who MLBTradeRumors.com projects will earn $1.3 million through the arbitration process. Considering how well Ohlendorf pitched last season and the fact that the Nats are pretty short on MLB-ready starting pitching depth at the moment, I bet they tender Ohlendorf a contract and add him to the list of possible rotation/bullpen options for next season.

It’s possible that the Nats non-tender Ohlendorf and try and work out a new deal with him, but $1.3 million isn’t too much when you’re talking about a guy with 124 games of big league experience who posted a 3.28 ERA in 60 1/3 innings last season, pitching both out of the bullpen and in a starting role.

My guess is all eight guys will be tendered contracts, setting the stage for the contract negotiations to begin, with arbitration looming as a possibility if the Nats and each player’s agent cannot reach common ground on a salary for 2014.

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