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Dodgers Non-Tender Russell Martin (And Sherrill & Oeltjen); Rod Barajas Returns

The Dodgers tendered a contract to Hong-Chih Kuo tonight, but not to Russell Martin, who is now a free agent.
The Dodgers tendered a contract to Hong-Chih Kuo tonight, but not to Russell Martin, who is now a free agent.

The Dodgers have tendered contracts to arbitration-eligible players Chad Billingsley, Hong-Chih Kuo, and James Loney today, and declined to tender a contract to Russell Martin and George Sherrill. Martin and Sherrill now are free agents, able to negotiate a contract with any team, including the Dodgers. As free agents, Martin and Sherrill are not subject to the 20% maximum salary cut rule, so the Dodgers, should they wish to re-sign them, are not bound by their 2010 salaries of $5.05 million and $4.5 million, respectively.

Earlier tonight, Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated tweeted that the Dodgers had been trying to trade Martin. Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times tweeted that the Dodgers and Yankees were working on a deal Wednesday that would have sent Martin to the Yankees for catcher Francisco Cervelli, but that deal fell apart.

The Dodgers have also non-tendered Trent Oeltjen.

Martin has regressed offensively from his back-to-back All-Star selections of 2007-2008, and has hit .251/.354/.331 since the 2008 All-Star break (he hit.289/.373/.450 in his career prior to that). Martin hit .248/.347/.332 in 2010, and missed the final 55 games of the season after suffering a labral tear in his hip. Then again, everyday catchers with .350 on-base percentages are hard to come by, and replacing Martin is likely much easier in theory rather than in practice. Martin did throw out 27 of 70 would-be base stealers (38.6%), while his backups gunned down just 12 of 66 runners (18.1%).

Had the Dodgers tendered Martin a contract, he would have likely made at least $6 million in salary arbitration. At the very minimum, Martin's contract would have to be at least $4.04 million, which represents 80% of his 2010 salary, but good luck finding someone who didn't get a raise in salary arbitration. The club and Martin's agent have been working in the last week or so on a potential new deal, but could not come to an agreement. Martin can still return to the Dodgers, but they will have to contend with several other teams for his services should they want him back.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reported that Martin's last offer to the Dodgers was for $5 million, plus another $1 million in incentives. That seems to me close enough to where a deal can be struck, but since the two sides couldn't agree on the amount before the tender deadline, the Dodgers had to non-tender him. They can continue to negotiate (again, Martin can also now talk to other teams), but had the Dodgers tendered a contract, Martin would have been in line for a raise from his $5.05 million, and he would have had no reason to accept anything less than that.

Hernandez reported that the Dodgers are interested in re-signing Martin, and that they also signed a one-year deal with catcher Rod Barajas. It would not surprise me at all if the Dodgers end up with both.

Sherrill made $4.5 million last season thanks to his previous closing experience, and was an obvious non-tender after his 6.69 ERA and 24-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio. However, as a left-handed specialist Sherrill would be a nice option to return for a six-figure salary. Left-handed batters hit just .192/.286/.288 against Sherrill last season, and have hit a mere .167/.235/.265 against him in his career. There is definite value there.

Ryan Theriot was another non-tender candidate, as the Dodgers signed Juan Uribe to take his second base job, but Theriot was traded to the Cardinals on Tuesday for pitcher Blake Hawksworth.

For the three that were tendered contracts, they will be eligible for salary arbitration. At some point between January 5-15, 2011, the players will file for arbitration, and on January 18, both player and club will each submit a single salary figure. In most cases, the two sides can work out a deal, but if they cannot come to an agreement, their case will be heard by a three-person arbitration panel at some point between February 1-21. The arbitration panel will pick one side or the other, with no in between. I will have more detailed look at the Dodgers arbitration cases next month, but here are their 2010 salaries:

  • Billingsley: $3.85 million
  • Loney: $3.1 million
  • Kuo: $950,000

The Dodgers 40-man roster now has 37 players (including Barajas, whose deal isn't yet official).