We're going to continue our team-by-team look at this upcoming offseason's arbitration-eligible players today, which I began earlier by covering the Arizona Diamondbacks. There's a quick explanation of what exactly that means in the Arizona post, but for those of you that are too cool for the D-Backs, here are some quick explanations of the arbitration system, service time, and "Super Twos", courtesy of MLBTR.
We'll be doing these in order of each player's respective 2010 salary like I did in the previous post, and any references to a raise are based on those salaries as well. So, I suppose let's get thing going.
RHP Takashi Saito - 3rd season of arbitration - Tender contract, raised from $3.2M
It's a pretty risky move, but in three of the past four years Saito's been worth well more than the roughly $4M he'll make through arbitration. The Dodgers non-tendered Saito after the 2008 season due to concerns about his elbow, but he's come back really strong in 2010 with Atlanta. If a team is ever going to spend money on a reliever, it's always better to get a guy on a one-year deal than to commit multiple years. Landing a guy as potentially dominant as Saito for less than $5 million on a one-year deal would be a pretty solid get in my book. It'll be pretty interesting to see how Atlanta replaces Billy Wagner next year, whether it's with Saito, Jonny Venters or Craig Kimbrel.
OF Melky Cabrera - 3rd season of arbitration (Super Two) - Tender contract, raised from $3.1M
I was going back and forth on this one, but I think it's worthwhile for Atlanta to tender Cabrera a contract and see if he can follow through on his potential. I remember that Dave Cameron of FanGraphs was particularly bullish on Melky before the season, and it's worth noting that the recently-turned 26-year-old has actually played much better the past couple of months. His brutal start and some uncharacteristically bad defensive marks are what have put his numbers are below-replacement level so far. But he's batted .286/.343/.421 in 319 PA over his past 94 games, he's a versatile defender that's capable in center and very solid in the corners, and there's still some upside given his youth. It would probably be a tad different if Atlanta had a good young outfielder waiting in the wings, but that isn't really the case given how awful Jordan Schafer has looked this season.
OF Matt Diaz - 4th season of arbitration (Super Two) - Non-tender
This one is pretty easy. He doesn't offer value with his glove, he struggles badly against right-handed pitching, and his offensive production has been almost totally based on sustaining a high BABIP. He's been able to do that in the past, but two of his past three seasons have been pretty brutal, he'll be 33 next season, and he's no longer coming that cheap given his 2010 salary of $2.55 million. Assuming that they tender a contract to Cabrera, they'll presumably have a Cabrera-McLouth-Heyward outfield next season, although I suppose they could add a bat and push Melky or McLouth to the fourth outfielder's role.
RHP Peter Moylan - 2nd season of arbitration - Non-tender
Honestly, Moylan's track record looks pretty awesome from first glance: in 244 games in over the past four years, he's put up a 16-8 win-loss record and a 2.47 ERA. But there's one problem, and that's his constantly increasing walk rate. After walking just 3.1 guys per 9 innings in 2007 and missing most of 2008 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Moylan returned to walk 4.3 per 9 innings in 2009. He was still a very good reliever given his ability to miss bats and induce grounders, but his strong ERA was helped a good deal but not giving up a single home run all season (something that's obviously not sustainable). There was presumably some hope that with another year passing since his elbow surgery, Moylan's command would improve, but it's actually continued to regress. With a decreased strikeout rate and significantly more walks, Moylan has essentially been a replacement-level reliever so far. While expecting some improvement from here is fair, I'm not sure that Moylan is worth paying roughly $2M next year.
THE OBVIOUS FIRST-YEAR TENDERS
RHP Jair Jurrjens - 1st season of arbitration - Tender, raise from $0.48M
LHP Eric O'Flaherty - 1st season of arbitration - Tender, raise from $0.44M
2B Martin Prado - 1st season of arbitration - Tender, raise from $0.44M
I thought I would just bunch these three together at the bottom, because they're all pretty obvious tenders for Atlanta. Jurrjens has been one of the most reliable young starters in the NL over the past three seasons and is a mainstay in Atlanta's rotation, O'Flaherty will likely be the top lefty in Atlanta's 2011 bullpen outside of Venters, and Prado has emerged as one of the best players on the team while spending time at second and third.
All three of these guys are integral pieces of the team already, and that certainly won't change even after they get raises through arbitration. These guys have all definitely earned contracts for the 2011 season.