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Tendering contracts, CBA negotiations, and the Dodgers roster crunch

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Deadlines loom this week

MLB: Winter Meetings
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has a busy week ahead, trying to come to an agreement with the players on a new collective bargaining agreement.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The hot stove season has been pretty quiet so far on the Dodgers’ front, with only a pair of minor trades so far, both more notable for the players who left the return. But the week ahead could see some movement, with a couple important deadlines looming.

The Dodgers might not sign anyone in the coming week, but they are going to at some point this offseason, and the 40-man roster is currently full. Unless they are able to clear some space with trades, and are also able to time their free agent signings to come after said trades, it’s likely there will be some moves soon to clear some 40-man spots.

Friday is the day by which teams must tender 2017 contracts for everyone on the 40-man roster. This tends to serve as a soft deadline of sorts for some players eligible for salary arbitration. Last year, for instance, the Dodgers came to terms with Joe Wieland and A.J. Ellis on 2016 contracts on Dec. 1 and Dec. 2, respectively, avoiding arbitration.

Last Dec. 2, the Dodgers didn’t tender contracts to Juan Nicasio, who was eligible for arbitration, and to Lisalverto Bonilla, who wasn’t. Both became free agents.

The Dodgers have nine players eligible for salary arbitration this offseason, including trade newcomers Vidal Nuno and Darin Ruf. Of the remaining seven, three didn’t appear on the Dodgers’ postseason roster in either the NLDS or NLCS:

Scott Van Slyke was hampered by a wrist injury that required season-ending arthroscopic surgery in August, and on the season hit just .225/.292/.314 with one home run and six doubles in 113 plate appearances.

However, Van Slyke when healthy hits left-handers — to the tune of .262/.366/.479 in his career — which was the Dodgers’ Achilles heel in 2016. Even if Van Slyke has slid down the depth chart, that he also has an option year remaining make it more likely he sticks around, even if it as minor league depth at a minimum.

Chris Hatcher missed the final 2½ months with an oblique injury, finishing a season that saw him post a 5.53 ERA and 5.21 FIP in 37 games and 40⅔ innings.

Louis Coleman was healthy at the end of the year, though he did miss August with right shoulder fatigue. He posted a 4.69 ERA and 4.31 FIP in 61 games and 48 innings in 2016.

Both Hatcher and Coleman are out of options, and are relatively low on the Dodgers’ bullpen depth chart. MLB Trade Rumors projects these two at $1.4 million and $1.5 million in 2017, respectively, which certainly isn’t prohibitive, but it’s the 40-man space that is much more valuable.

That said, Friday’s deadline to tender contracts is only the second-most important date this week.

The current collective bargaining agreement expires on Thursday, Dec. 1, which means Wednesday night, Nov. 30 at 9 p.m. PT. Should the owners and players not come to an agreement, there could be a lockout, which will suspend all baseball activity until an agreement can be reached.

Word of a potential lockout surfaced last week, when Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported on Tuesday that the owners were frustrated with the slow pace of negotiations. Talks progressed though, and by Thursday Jayson Stark of ESPN quoted sources saying both the owners and players saw “a path to a deal” in place.

The sport is currently healthy, with record revenues, so it seems unlikely the two decades of labor peace would be jeopardized over what seems to be relatively small issues. But the possibility of a work stoppage remains until the new CBA is signed, sealed and delivered.